Mogwai return with their first album proper since the 2011 album ‘Hardcore will never die, but you will’, although there has been some remix and soundtrack work in between (let’s just say, these guys don’t rest on their laurels). Their first album Young Team was released in 1997, so the band have been doing what they do for nearly 20 years now. The name of the album is something of a false alarm, there has been no genre altering side step here, this is still very much a Mogwai album. The main variation in this album is a wave of John Carpenter-esque, 80’s style keyboard/ electronic sounds. You know the ones that are quite trendy at the moment and sound like the loading screens on Commodore 64 computer games! These are nicely layered with their typical guitars and pounding drums.While the 80’s keyboard is ubiquitous at the moment, the Mogwai guitar sound over it does differentiate this from the pack and make it something quite unique. The keyboard and guitar do jar/ clash, but in the best possible way.
There are a number of tracks on the album where they step away from it keyboard sound, and return to their more typical format of heavy guitar and drums. It’s slightly disappointing that they revert to form, but I’m sure they were trying to vary the arrangement, and not have it all sounding too similar.
It’s a struggle for an instrumental band (as they largely are) to keep their sound new, and differentiate this album from the ones that went before. There are three tracks on this album with vocals, one is a sampled spoken word piece about ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and satan in rock music (Repelish) and in another the vocal is heavily modified (The Lord is out of control). Only ‘Blues Hour’ allows the vocal to go untouched, and are softly spoken. The album offers a variety of interesting sounds, and I can imagine it all sounding great live (guys, you’re always welcome in Dublin!). Sonic soundscapes or whatever you want to call them, there’s plenty of epic guitar sounds on this lovely new album from an old friend.
The stand out tracks are surprisingly the quieter ones, I love ‘Heard about you last night’ and the single ‘Remurdered’. It’s definitely one of Mogwai’s best releases and something to savour. You can hear the album on the Guardian Website here.