Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. That’s the name of the newest studio offering from Scotland’s Mogwai and, if I had never heard a single track, they would still have won for best album title of the year hands down. The good thing is that I have listened to Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will and Mogwai’s return after three years is another hard to figure out, bold and sonically striking record.
You’re either a fan of what Mogwai do or you’re not; I’ve run into very few casual fans of their sound. This is a band that builds musical structures more so than “songs”. The structures can be one riff over and over, a lush guitar soundscape, a pummeling riff or simply a keyboard/guitar movement that brings to mind a musical score. It’s whatever Mogwai feels like riffing on, and an example of true artistic freedom.
So how do I go about describing this album for the uninitiated? Mogwai’s sound isn’t something you can easily put a handle on, though many have tried. “Shoe Gaze”, “Math Rock”, and the dreaded, vague, “Indie Rock” tags have all been thrown at the band but don’t really work. Mogwai mix too many influences up, or they are simply beyond the idea of being forced into a title. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will begins with a mellow, swirling song titled “White Noise” featuring a blend of guitars and keyboards. It’s one of those magical number than can lift you up and take you away. Following that is “Mexican Grand Prix”, which feels like Laurie Anderson (O Superman) covering John Carpenter soundtracks. The ghosting vocals that dance just behind the music are rare for Mogwai but work nicely here.
Have no fear older Mogwai fans, the mad scientist work with harsh feedback is still alive and well for the boys. “Rano Pano” is nearly two minutes in before the droning noise allows some basic drums and other guitar trickery to surface. Even when the other instruments come in, the one-chord noise battalion marches over everything. Coming after two more laid back songs, “Rano Pano” is jarring but perfect.
Hardcore Never Dies is an emotional album but one that builds off of inner conflicts as opposed to straight aggression. Some were hoping that the title of the record meant Mogwai decided to release some epic, snarling, punk rock monster. Those folks really should have known better. There is a monster on this album but it’s a tense and brewing force that lives in the depths of what Mogwai are doing texturally. You can’t have the emotions dictated to you here, you have to feel them and find them out for yourself.
Mogwai aren’t for everybody, and this album isn’t going to change that. This is an exigent collection of songs, music that demands you pay attention and get involved. Even the most ardent “indie” fan might buckle beneath the ever-shifting scenarios each song brings. The lonely, deserted road feeling of “Letters To The Metro” or the uplifting and ethereal “How To Be A Werewolf” is two examples of how the ideas and musical movements are constantly changing on this record.
In the hands of a lesser band these ideas would have become muddled and confused but Mogwai keep things crisp and defined, no matter how intermingled the work becomes. Perhaps the most effective example is the final track “You Are Lionel Richie”, an eight-minute epic that is four minutes of light, airy keyboards and guitar noodles that explode into this crashing Tsunami of guitars, bass and drums. It shouldn’t work, it should feel like two separate musical ideas but Mogwai blend them easily, maybe because they don’t really try to “blend” them at all.
Whatever the reason, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is a great musical journey. This is one of those albums that demands to be heard from end to end, as one solid piece of music. This is an investment, something you go into looking for your own answers to your own riddles. The record can’t be easily digested or explained to you, Mogwai have set it up to allow you the luxury of drawing your own conclusions. To me that’s what music should do, confound, entertain and ultimately allow us to grow as listeners, people or hopefully both. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is a clear invitation (ideologically not musically) to that dance.
CRAVEONLINE RATING 8 1/2 OUT OF 10