Twenty years of Mogwai! The band who debuted in 1997 with Young Team is still going strong, so let’s put those doubts to rest right away. Our Country’s Sun offers fans exactly what they wanted, plus a little bit of what they didn’t know they wanted until they heard it.
I’m one of those fans. My preference would have been for an all-instrumental album with a lot of crescendos. I certainly didn’t want an album with vocals, although Stuart Braithwaite has been known to sing on occasion. But now if you tell me that you want to take “Party in the Dark” off the album, I’ll have a fit. The same holds true for b-side “Eternal Panther”. Turns out the band has an affection for the new wave / electro songs of its youth, and amazingly, has been able to recreate their tone. There’s a certain irony in the fact that OMD released a new album the same day (39 years and counting!), and that idols and fans can co-exist as creators. “Party in the Dark” manages to channel The Jesus and Mary Chain, Modern English and R.E.M., while “Eternal Panther” is straight-up New Order (reunited, and it feels so good!). And while the title track makes an excellent closer, “Eternal Panther” makes an even better one, spinning out across the decades, calling on the past while racing into the future.
But first there was “Coolverine”, a synth / post-rock meld that told fans to relax. Mogwai’s forays into TV and film scoring had not changed their core sound, nor their sense of humor. As the track works its way to a rhythmic conclusion, one can hear the collective exhalation of a million fans. The first drum shift enhances the energy, but the subtle synth carries the storyline. Mogwai songs tend to sneak up on a listener, and there’s no pinpointing where “Coolverine” turns the corner, only that it does. The same, however, does not hold true for “Don’t Believe the Fife”, arguably the album’s best track. Rising from the shoegaze fumes of “1000 Foot Face”, the track fools listeners into thinking it is introverted, when it is only biding its time. When it finally erupts, the track offers the rush of euphoria post-rock fans live to experience, and while it ends too quickly, it sets up the album’s raucous three-track conclusion.
There have been many good Mogwai albums, and some great ones, but this one has the most fluidity. The sequencing seems instinctive, based more on emotion than on tempo. By the time “Battered at a Scramble” hits, the band has touched on all the bases, leaving room for nothing but rock. And rock it does, through walls of distortion and churn. We’re guessing these are the new encores. “Old Poisons” takes 0.0 seconds to get to the point, and its breakdown is pure metal. “Every Country’s Sun” sets the table with fine china, then yanks the tablecloth. Guitar melodies battle with squall until the sun sets and all is quiet. Mogwai neither burns out nor rusts; the band continues to buck the odds, and we’re already looking forward to their third decade. (Richard Allen)