Friday, 1 March 2013

Les Revenants Review

Les Revenants
Rock Action Records

Mogwai are a great band to follow. They have a fan pleasing knack of going above and beyond knocking out a studio album every two or three years. Each album / tour cycle is usually accompanied by something a little more unusual; there have been EP collections, rarities / early work compilations, tour only releases, BBC sessions, a live album and two remix records. Following in this tradition, Les Revenants is their second soundtrack, in this case to a French TV series.

Their previous soundtrack Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait was surely one of the least likely football background noises ever. There wasn’t a drunken Oi oi oi or crowd singalong moment in the whole thing.

It was also pretty sombre, and at times felt a little incomplete without pictures to accompany it. Les Revenants feels much like an album in its own right.

It has the quiet, sinister feel of their studio work; those tracks that can tend to pass me by on the first few listens, when the ear shatteringly loud riffs are battling for my attention. Here, it is all relatively quiet. I’m tempted to compare to Come On Die Young but it wouldn’t be accurate; although lacking in distortion and white noise, the tracks here don’t force you to tease the hooks out like their excellent second album did.

Because most of the songs are short and are designed to soundtrack a TV show, there is an upfront nature to the song hooks and structures, even if that hook is a mournful cello or (as is often the case) a plodding piano.

But where Zidane… largely washed over, however pleasantly, here we see not only a tighter, more concentrated set, but also a wider range of tricks. The electronic pulse that guides Jaguar is anything but gentle and This Messiah Needs Watching builds like the Mogwai of Scotland’s Shame. In fact, that song is a good indication; closer Wizard Motor begins in similar fashion but they grows into the loudest track on the album, sputtering beats and layered guitars suggesting the band were finally letting themselves go.

But most striking of all is What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?, their version of a traditional arrangement, complete with a group singalong. It reminds me of Arab Strap’s song The Week Never Starts Round Here and is without doubt the jolliest thing they’ve ever done, in its own way.

At fourteen tracks, it is the longest album Mogwai have given us, at least in terms of tracks titles. It suggests, as does the music, that they were genuinely inspired by the project. Though individual songs don’t stand out as much as they do on their best work, it is a highly accomplished album from a band in a very healthy state.

They’ve long abandoned the 15 minute post rock headaches and this is clearly the music they love now. Their last few studio albums have not quite combined the quiet and the loud tracks into a perfect whole; that goal, alongside reducing track lengths to something more user friendly does appear to have been their aim since Mr Beast but by letting the loud side go (probably because they know they won’t have to tour this extensively) they have created something more focussed, artistic and, yes, rather beautiful. Fingers crossed the TV show gets a UK airing.

Dean Freeman

No comments:

Post a Comment