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Mogwai – Rave Tapes (Rock Action)

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Last time I saw Mogwai live, in Bangkok at the tail end of 2011, I spent much of the gig wishing they’d turn the volume up, so muted was the PA that night. I spent the first few listens to Rave Tapes wishing the same.

For those who prefer the speaker-shredding, face-melting, Blur-baiting Mog of yore will find little joy in Rave Tapes which, despite a moniker promising glowstick-waving hands-in-the-air exuberance, is a mature, restrained affair, much closer in tone to their wonderful Les Revenants soundtrack than the balls-on-the-monitor rock thrills of Hardcore Will Never Die. It reveals its delights slowly. But when it clicks, oh man, it clicks.

There is delicate beauty here in abundance, whether it’s the pretty opener “I Heard About You Last Night“, the heart-wrenching “Blues Hour” (“Train lines, going nowhere…no destination found“), or the Sigur Ros-esque closer “The Lord is Out of Control“, waves of white noise washing over indecipherable vocodered vocals to decidedly moving effect. “Deesh”, “Mastercard” and “No Medecine for Regret” are very much Mogwai-by-numbers, which in my book is a positive thing to be.

Indeed, it’s only when the band push the envelope that Rave Tapes falls down. The distorted electronic hook of “Simon Ferocious” provides a delicious initial jolt; after nearly 5 minutes of repetition, it simply becomes irritating. The much-hyped preview track “Remurdered” begins with several minutes of delicious film-score menace before a coda which apes Emeralds, if you’re being charitable, or Rick Wakeman, if you’re not. I’m not. And “Repelish” takes an insufferably smug US Christian monologue about Satanism in rock music (“She’s buying a stairway to heaven? We know that’s not possible“) and sets it against the album’s most bland musical arrangement, when the concept is simply crying out for some nasty, evil distortion.

If anything, Rave Tapes reminds me of the aforementioned Sigur Ros’ criminally underrated 2012 album Valtari; a restrained album with no standout tracks and which creatively treads water, but which does it in such a beautiful way it becomes far more than the sum of its parts. Let’s just hope that next time they’ll crank it back up and give us their Kveikur. But until then, Rave Tapes will do just fine.

 [Rating:3]

 

 

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