Some bands can only be judged against themselves, rather than against others. These groups are so formulaic that you just can’t expect them to change that much over time, and thus every piece of music must be judged as a representation of their whole body of work. A few days ago I would have said that this applied to Mogwai, but now I’m not so sure. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will certainly is a fitting continuation of their catalogue, but stands so well on its own that even those who have fallen off the Mogwai train after the past few releases should get back on. And with such a sick title, Hardcore just had to be great.
Interestingly, there is a slight shift from previous albums. There seems to be much less of a contrast between tracks. The slow rising guitar swirls culminating in a massive explosion remain, but are certainly mush less obvious now. Probably the best examples of this are ‘Death Rays’ and ‘How to Be a Werewolf’. By the end of both I wondered how I got there. I’ve always been a fan of the classic post-rock gentle build that Mogwai are so good at, and I think they have just gotten better at being subtle about it.
Hardcore still offers straight-up aggressive tracks like ‘Rano Pano’ and ‘San Pedro’, but even these still tend to blur the line between sheer power and beauty. Equally, there are some gorgeous songs here. ‘White Noise’ is simply stunning and in my opinion their best opening track ever (sorry ‘Yes! I Am a Long Way from Home’). I’ve also always tended to gravitate towards anything of theirs without vocals, but ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’ is a good example of where they do actually add something to the song, even with auto-tune in full force.
Sticking my neck out a bit, this is one of the best Mogwai albums in years. It has everything one wants in a Mogwai album, just with a little more restraint, which is very effective. So Hardcore could be seen as a maturation of their sound in the greater scheme of their already impressive career, or just taken on its own for what it is. It would certainly be a great introduction to the band and allow for some exciting backtracking to understand how they got to be here. At very least, it will just please and continue to damage the hearing of the seasoned listener.