Exactly 25 years after the release of their first double-A single, Mogwai returns with their tenth album. In this industry, that’s quite an achievement. Even more impressive is the feeling that the Glasgow band may actually be getting better with age. At the very least, their music is still relevant and compelling, and man, can they craft a single.
As the Love Continues extends the trajectory of Every Country’s Sun, embracing the influence of bands such as New Order and Modern English. This warm retro sensibility is welded to a distinctly modern vibe, then scrubbed with low-fi edges and a slightly distorted, nostalgic fuzz. Another similarity to the previous album is the unanimity of quality across the board. But unlike Every Country’s Sun, the album contains only one overtly vocal track, not counting those with buried voices or vocoder. That piece, “Ritchie Sacramento,” is instantly catchy, with a memorable bassline and chorus. Sam Wiehl’s spectacular sci-fi video is another selling point, looking like the trailer of a promising series or film.
The other introductory single, “Dry Fantasy,” is more “classic” Mogwai: an instrumental track whose keyboard line is the earworm. Riding throughout the track, the motif also concludes the song, leaving a lasting impression. This time Vaj.power provides the colorful visuals, again on a sci-fi tip: dreamy and hypnotic, to match the song’s vibe. One can imagine an extension of X-Mix and The Amp, two series cancelled in their prime.
The entire album suggests Wiehl’s storyline, or the other way around. The opening words are also the title of the opening track: “To the bin, my friend, tonight we vacate Earth.” A gentle ambient heartbeat pulses the music to life. When the big chords crash in at 2:33, we’re already sold on the whole project: wild drama, big themes, a sense of largesse. And while “rock” and “alternative” are the band’s primary tags these days, they’re still proud to call themselves post-rock as well, a relief to those wondering if all the big bands ~ quiet in 2020 ~ had retired or moved on. Post rock + new wave nostalgia is a perfect combination in the still-new year.
“Ceiling Granny” is the obvious choice for a third single, launching with a signature riff, quickly met by another melodic guitar. At four minutes in length, there was time for a soft interlude, but what would be the point? Instead, the track rocks from start to finish, calling The Pixies to mind. Two late album guest appearances are the icing on an already rich cake. Atticus Ross and Colin Stetson appear on back-to-back tracks, adding their own distinctive flair. Ross and Mogwai are well-versed in soundtrack work by now, so it’s no surprise that “Midnight Flit” is cinematic; the focus shifts from electronics to drums before an orchestral second half surge. And as for “Pat Stains,” wail, brother, wail.
In a time where consistency is rare, it’s wonderful to have bands to depend on. Mogwai formed in 1995, the same year as Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; we’re ready to vote them in. (Richard Allen)