Review: Mogwai – Les Revenants
Published on March 5th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Who’d be a good band to soundtrack a French TV series in which the very first thing to happen is a coachload of schoolchildren careening off the edge off a cliff? Probably that Scottish band, the one that soundtracked the Zinedine Zidane film…non?
Removed from the context of the titular émission and approached strictly as a Mogwai album, Les Revenants finds the group as cinematically poised – some might say ‘monged’ – as they were on both the aforementioned Zidane accompaniment and on 1999 LP Come On Die Young. Basically, the newfound predilection for driving, Motorik beats that reared its bad-ass head on recent studio efforts The Hawk is Howling and Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will…well, there’s none of that.
“Hungry Face” kicks off proceedings with their more familiar side of star-gazing solemnity, all dolorous piano and cello, twinkling music box and rumbling drum fills, before “Jaguar” – not a golden one, just a plain one – leads prods of monotone bass into a sort of snowy wilderness reminiscent of “Moses? I Amn’t” from 2003’s Happy Songs for Happy People. So far, so Mogwai – or should we appropriate that to ‘Monged-wai’?
Mogwai it is, then.
The agreeably dissonant “Huts” is one of only a handful of tracks (well, five out of the fourteen) to last beyond the four-minute mark, and by this point it’s clear that the atmosphere is to remain one of low-key paranoia rather than countenance any sudden eruptions of blaring distortion. “This Messiah Needs Watching”, an accomplice in beyond-four-minute-dom, presents some buzzing bass notes that make Rocksucker want to start singing Air classic “Sexy Boy” over the top of it, but suffice it to say it’s a different (Mr) beast entirely: it’s chilling stuff, in fact, embarking on one of Mogwai’s patented gradual builds amidst a wispy cloud of groaning feedback in contrast to the ensuing “Special N”, which sees the band at their blissfully soothing/soothingly blissful best (think “Tracy” or “Kids Will Be Skeletons”).
Twinkledoom special “Fridge Magic” makes for compelling evidence that Mogwai used to play Mr Nutz on the SNES, and the air of creepiness is furthered by the monotone cello tension of “Portgual” and spikily discordant not-quite-shuffle of “Eagle Tax”. Incidentally, Rocksucker would like to ‘bagsy’ Monotone Cello Tension of Portugal for use as a band name, or at least offer it up to Mogwai as the title of their next album.
After that, it’s left to the shuddering slow steps of “Modern”, the surprisingly country-tinged/vocal-featuring “What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?” (lovely, understated voice Stuart Braithwaite has, too…and blimey, there are harmonies on it!) and scuzzy bass burrowing of “Wizard Motor” to bring le rideau down on another classy set from one of the most unimpeachable bands going. You might need to submerge yourself in the imagery of the show to truly bring this lot to life (arf!, sort of), but a new Mogwai album in any form is always a gift.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
Les Revenants is out now on Rock Action Records. For more information, please visit www.mogwai.co.uk