2 March 2014

Mogwai - Rave Tapes

This is an album which has been on my radar for a while since I first heard it was coming.  'Rave Tapes' is the eighth studio album (if you don't count soundtracks, but it is the eleventh album; if you count EP's it is even more) from Scottish post rock mavericks Mogwai.  Hailing from Glasgow, they formed in 1995 and have been taking their soda pop around the world with glorious live shows and amazing records.  Upon starting this I was a little surprised to find out it is the first Mogwai release that we have reviewed, I am sure that will be changing.  My love for this band is twofold - firstly, I have a lot of time for post-rock music.  Secondly, they released this t-shirt.....

A band after my own heart..... So, with that in mind I would like to point a few things out.  As much as I love this band, I know they can be a little bit boring to some people; even fans of the band have stated that they have been treading water a little bit with their last two releases, even when checking out other reviews of this album a lot of people were not over impressed.  For me, I have been so-so with their last few records, they are not bad but they are not a patch on my favourite Mogwai records either.  Yet their last few records have also been getting them a lot of attention, especially 'Les Revenants' (translated to 'The Returned') which is the soundtrack to a French supernatural series.  However, I will have to keep that to the side whilst I listen to this new work, which is already in my top ten for album covers of the year (done by dlt and so perfect in packaging).

Starting off with "Heard About You Last Night" it is hardly the most brilliant of songs to start your eighth album to be honest.  It is well performed and pleasant enough, but for a band that has been known to push the boundaries it is very much in their comfort zone to be honest.  If anything it feels like it could have been a b-side from anything released off 'Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will' and as an opening track it is just that little too laid back, a little two gentle and does not have that grabbing quality upon the first few listens.  It does though have a flawed beauty which comes with further listens, so from the beginning the band are wanting this album to be a natural grower, not some wam-bam-thank-you-mama flash in the pan jobbies.  "Simon Ferocious" is further proof of this more laid back and thoughtful approach that is becoming Mogwai's playing deck as of late. Starting with an almost hap-hazard approach that was part of their 'The Hawk Is Howling' sound, it is like a slow and disturbing spin into a slow whirlpool of flotsam and jetsam that does not make for the best of beginnings if the truth be told.  "Remurder" though is a lot better, as moody as a Swedish detective show and is a lot more barren than what has been going on before hand in the album.  The keyboard work is especially uplifting on this song and is worthy of being a Mogwai song.

Next up is "Hexon Bogon" which is the shortest song on the album; it is also quite possibly the shortest of the band's career.  It is also a song which should have been a given a bit more time to flow, but it is still an amazing track, just it could have been a lot more.  Then comes "Repelish" which has a spoken word piece over the top about how Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" is a backwards pray to the devil.  Without the spoken word piece over the top, this is just a hollow and empty, but this is probably design to make the words the focal point of the song.  It works and once you get what they are trying to do with it, then it falls into place.  After this is "Master Card" and whilst I find it a charming and interesting number, I cannot say that I love it or that it is an improvement to any of their earlier works. It has the natural hallmarks of a classic Mogwai track - uplifting keyboards, menacing guitars and drums, brooding bass - all there in their nice neat little boxes; but still I am not as enthralled as I should be.

"Deesh" is much better, when I say much better I mean it is units of light speed better, it is from the deepest caverns of the ocean to the highest mountains better and I can hold it as one of the best songs I have ever heard from Mogwai.  Feeling like a natural partner to "Friend Of The Night" from 'Mr. Beast' it works on many more levels than I was starting to fear about this album.  It just transcends the album and is a joy to behold.  Then comes "Blue Hour" which does the right thing following such a euphoric track and steps back slightly, becoming almost acoustic in feel and it is also one of those rare Mogwai tracks with vocals on; talking about how the singer's ghost is always hunger.  By taking a step back at the beginning of the song, it makes the load and harsh dynamic of the number starker and again it is a joy to behold.  Simply done and perfect moulded.  But these last two numbers (as great as they are) are just shadows compared to "No Medicine For Regret" - this is the reason "Deesh" is not the best track on the album.  It is just such a fantastic piece of work it is in my top tracks by this band automatically from the moment I heard it. I cannot oversell this song enough, just one of the best songs I have heard in a long time from this band.  Ending the album is the gentle "The Lord Is Out Of Control" which acts as a peaceful and gentle (well in comparison to "No Medicine For Regret") ending to this album.  Gone as the days of 15 minute plus feedback walls from the band, but this is not a bad thing for this album.  It would have been strange for Mogwai to have done this hear.  Instead they have went for a simpler, yet effective release which underpins one of the best ending segments to an album I have ever heard.

Back when rock was new, albums literally had two sides when they were released on vinyl and cassette tapes.  This album is a modern representation of that era, but in terms of frustration.  I have to point out that this is by no means a bad or awful album; quite far from it, it is a beautiful release.  So why am I so down on it?  Well, it is due to the high standards which Mogwai have handed themselves since they first came onto the scene with Young Team.  They have constantly been carving a path which braver men fear to tread, which is a blessing and a curse at some points. It also makes me wonder if the band needed a little more time to record the album so soon after the 'Les Revenants' OST, maybe they needed a few more months with the tracks.  But that takes nothing away from the album itself, especially the last four tracks which are so special that they up the mark by a few points alone.  I have been listening to this album for over a month and I still find myself going backwards and forwards on how to mark it, but I think the best way to describe it as I said earlier - it is a grower and will take time to reveal its secrets.  Frustrating and beautiful in one lovely package of beautiful noise.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Best track - No Medicine For Regret

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Mogwai website here

Here is a link to the Mogwai online shop

Here is a link for users of Deezer to listen to the album

Alternatively, for Spotify user's - click here

Here is the video for "The Lord Is Out Of Control"

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