I’m entering dangerous territory so I need to tread lightly. There seems to be a desire to crush any sort of discussion on post-rock bands that released a significant album in the 90’s (Godspeed You!, Tortoise), and with Mogwai being one of the culprits, it’s hard to put an honest opinion without backlash. It must be said though, Mogwai Young Team is arguably one of the greatest releases in the 90’s without a doubt. The album alone sent a ripple among underground music, forcing listeners to a new form of music that has been right in front of them for years. Now to point out the obvious, the group has struggled to recapture the success since their debut album, and only Rock Action has come close to that.
It’s been 3 years since the release of their last album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, and that was a disjointed mess. Rave Tapes hopes to take a different direction, insisting on a softer layout with an electronic touch. The criticism with past Mogwai albums is that they haven’t been able to have the impact that their debut had. Whether it’s for the sake of releasing albums to stay relevant or that they need the money, no release has been on the same level. The difference with Rave Tapes is that it feels like they want to release music. They aren’t forced into getting album out, but they have a need to be heard this time.
These 10 tracks do carry a sort of emotion that scarcely has been seen since 1997. You can tell they aren’t the same band this time around, and a decade of touring will do that to members, but there’s a different atmosphere on this release. “Heard About You Last Night” opens the album with a sort of slow ambiance that Mogwai has yet to try. They add their signature ride cymbal jam to the mix, but in smooth and natural way that does resemble “Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home”, which in my opinion is the best track they’ve ever released. They flow from track to track smoothly, carrying the overarching theme of softness. There isn’t the distorted, over the top dynamic change that’s heard on the past releases, and instead they brought the timely orchestrated feel from their French soundtrack release, Les Revenants EP.
I can be noted that these tracks are quite forgettable on the first listen, but there’s a drive to replay this album, and at 48 minutes it’s not because it’s a short album. It’s because they create a hum of feelings that is hard to match by other albums in your library. “Remurdered”, “Blues Hour”, and “No Medicine For Regret” are all high points on this album. They drive home the suppressed feelings of Mogwai’s need to be heard. They want to be taken seriously again, and with Rave Tapes, they’re serious contenders for that title. They know their potential, now it’s about finishing. Nothing feels forced on these tracks, with the exception of the recording of the rant about the “Stairway To Heaven” subliminal message on “Replenish”. It was interesting at first, but now it’s an annoyance. I understand it’s supposed to be a deeper meaning of the devil’s impact on music, but it’s too childish to be given a second look.
Mogwai has stepped themselves up with a solid release. I feel like the surprise factor that this album didn’t upset me has to do with the enjoyment. I’ve had it on replay since I was able to get a hold of it, so that must be a good sign. Rave Tapes provides a strong play through with no filler, and that’s unheard of in recent Mogwai releases. These tracks have been itching to be dropped by the band, and I’m surprised how they were able to keep their composure during their crescendos. Surprisingly, they have such control over their levels that they know how to manipulate the listener into enjoying them. Together, these songs create a grasping and enjoyable album that kicks off 2014 on the right foot. Hopefully they can keep it up in the future.