Album Review: Mogwai, Rave Tapes


Sophie Metcalfe reviews the newest longplayer from legendary Scottish post-rockers Mogwai with extreme trepidation. Will it reach her high expectations? 

When I was given the task to review ‘Rave Tapes’, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. After the release of Mogwai’s 2011 album ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’ I was confused with their direction and was wondering what they would throw at us next. It took me days and days of listening… I listened from the depths of my headphones and out from my speakers. I listened in the dark, I listened in the sunshine, I listened naked. I listened inside out, back to front, with surround sound and on the long drive home. It has taken me a lot of time to start this review. Basically because I knew it wouldn’t be very positive. But nevertheless, here it is.

So, I’ll give you the good news first. ‘Rave Tapes’ opens really powerfully and promisingly with one of the strongest songs on the whole album. Lovely imagery comes through in ‘Heard About You Last Night’ and you get that feeling like they’ve written the soundtrack to your life. Which is what Mogwai do best. It’s not adulterated with a lot of electronics but instead just a lovely piano riff coming through some layered and very atmospheric guitar work. This is followed by the two standout tracks of the album ‘Remurdered’ and ‘Hexon Bogon’. Where the opening track is reminiscent of Mogwai’s earlier works and denies the need of heavy electronics, these two bad boys compliment it by embracing the electronic sound and allowing the album to build momentum, particularly and quite literally with ‘Remurdered’

But the excitement is short lived. ‘Repelish’, the fifth song on the track is the biggest curve ball of all. It grates through with an American voiceover having a rant about the subliminal messages in Led Zeppelins ‘Stairway to Heaven’. That’s great and all… but why is it in the middle of the album? Put it at the end. The point they were making may have been interesting the first time but after that it just gets tiring…the execution has none of their usual tact. There was no lovely Scottish drone similar to other voiceover tracks like ‘R U Still into it’ or ‘Tracy’. The voice is pervading, loud… and… just… not Glaswegian. It doesn’t contribute to the imagery that was building and building from the beginning. It is a drunken uncle that plows through intoxicated with his inflammatory remarks, makes a big mess on the floor and all of a sudden Christmas is ruined.

So… with that said… it’s not as bad as I first make out because that’s the worst news.

If I was to be perfectly honest with myself, I put unfair expectations on Mogwai. Like they are somehow responsible for my addiction of emotional extremities. I can’t help it that some early tracks in their career like ‘I Love You but I’m Going to Blow up Your School’ continue to haunt me and I grab for them in my darkest of moods. I was hoping for more food for crazy thought. I really want to be kind to them, I really do. But it’s been a long time since something has frightened me quite like the first time I heard ‘Like Herod’. I’m waiting to be thrilled again by them and since ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’ failed to – I was really hoping ‘Rave Tapes’ would. Mogwai have the ability to be tear inducing, terrifying, exhilarating and rip you to shreds on your 8:00am train to work. But I’m worried that they are, dare I say, resting on their laurels a little, with the exception of their dabbling in a more electronic sound.

If I was to wrap up (and I’m still not sure about what I feel) the whole album was exciting foreplay. It makes a bold entrance with some great tracks to start but then departs unmemorable. As a whole, it just leaves me frustrated, unresolved and wanting. It had so much momentum, provoking rhythms and exciting possibilities. But as the great Marvin the Martian once said: “where’s the kaboom? I want to see an earth shurttering kaboom”



Review by Sophie Metcalfe.