There is something nearly perfect about Mogwai giving its latest album such as ridiculous, hilarious title. For some dudes that makes such serious-sounding post-rock, they’ve always had a sense of humor, coloring their expansive suites with human touches and dispensing unusual, seemingly random track titles like “Mogwai Fear Satan” and “Punk Rock/Puff Daddy/Antichrist.” But in a way, they should have named their seventh full-length Mogwai Will Never Die, But You Will. Over the course of 10 consistently great tracks, they coil together relentlessly compelling instrumentals that fully demonstrate the reason for their staying power.
These guys really know how to build texture. Guitarists Stuart Braithwaite and John Cummings and guitarist/keyboardist Barry Burns craft complex forests of effects, Martin Bulloch brings a powerful, versatile flair behind the drum kit, and Dominic Aitchison’s bass cuts through with melodic precision. And don’t let the title fool you—Mogwai haven’t gone punk rock; Hardcore is filled with the quintessential Mogwai space-rock partly engrained in the DNA of bands like Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky.
The main innovation here comes in the brightness department; never before has the Glasgow quintet sounded so emotionally forthcoming and optimistic. And they don’t waste much time proving that point—opener “White Noise” is, ironically, the most melodic and uplifting track here, riding waves of electric guitar harmony and drum kit clamor—a perfect frame for Burns’ epic piano melody. “Mexican Grand Prix” is a kraut-rock stunner, placing a trippy-ass vocoder guest-spot from Luke Sutherland over an unrelenting canon blast of bass, synths, and drum kit.
There aren’t many surprises on Hardcore, but with jams this solid, surprises are unnecessary. Mogwai is still as hilarious, depressing and moving as it’s always been, somehow dispensing more wisdom with reverb and distortion than most can do with words.