MOGWAI Every Country’s Sun gets 6.5/10

Mogwai
Every Country’s Sun
Spunk Records / Caroline Australia

6.5/10

What if every country had its own sun? That stranger than fiction thought becomes reality on Mogwai’s ninth studio album, Every Country’s Sun. Jokingly named for the idea that independent suns create the different temperatures in different countries (originally tabled by an unidentified associate of the band), still listening to the album it’s hard not to visualize blazing stars, sunsets and solar eclipses. So much so, it almost feels like a soundtrack to space itself.

This time around, there are a few changes to the production and the line-up. Venturing outside of Glasgow, Mogwai have returned to the studio of producer, and friend, Dave Fridmann in New York, the first time since 2001’s Rock Action. Great things are expected when Fridmann’s production portfolio reads as a list of indie rock greats: Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips, Low, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, MGMT and Tame Impala.

The band line-up morns the loss of John Cummings, having retired from after the last album, and as a result, sees Stuart Braithwaite picking up extra guitar spots and creating some cool sounds that lift the tracks to a new level. Less obvious, the synth that dominated Rave Tapes takes a back seat forming the supporting structure and only occasionally taking the lead.

At first listen, the tracks appear quite minimalist, but the arrangement is complex with multiple layers forming to create feelings of anticipation and closure. Throughout, there is also a strong sense of isolation and introversion.

There is a definite formula to the composition of the songs: dreamy intros transitioning into a long build-up of processional drums and climatic guitars, finishing with the ubiquitous fade out. This formula is nothing new to Mogwai.

Unfortunately, in this case it can get a bit boring. The repetitive soundscapes make it hard to distinguish or place tracks, even after several listens, and there is not enough variation to keep things interesting. Added to this is that every track feels like a closing track. And sometimes an anticlimactic close, at that.

In the context of the album, opener Coolverine seems a strange choice for a first single. At over six minutes, it’s a long prologue that doesn’t quite catch you in the way you hope an opening track would. There are far better constructed and more memorable tunes (Crossing the Road Material or Battered At Scramble) that show off Mogwai’s talent for clever riffs.

Second album single, Party In The Dark, breaks away from the usual post rock sound. As a standalone track, it is a successful venture into pop territory with a danceable melody and catchy lyrics. However, it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the album and its placement as second track appears as a strange interruption.

Likewise Old Poisons, which bears the most familiar Mogwai sound (think Batcat), is buried towards the rear. Appearing too late, it drives home the loudness that is missing from much of the rest of the album. The foreboding breakdown gives a nod to the metal gods.

Midway is where the journey through space really resonates. Launching into the atmosphere with Brain Sweeties, we are taken into the great beyond with Crossing the Road Material to land in a soundscape of android stardrops in Aka 47. 1000 Foot Face and Don’t Believe The Fife make for a forgettable intermission, that is saved either side by the jam session hum of 20 Size and Battered At Scramble.

The title track, Every Country’s Sun, closes with an atmosphere of finality and as an outro, it rounds off the album nicely. The journey has ended.

As someone who has been a faithful Mogwai fan for over a decade, Every Country’s Sun won’t be making my personal favourite albums, but there are a couple of tracks that could, with time, find their way onto a ‘best of’ list.

Having seen Mogwai perform many of these songs at the Dark Mofo festival earlier this year in Tasmania, this review may be biased. The new tracks came across as huge and dominating in the live setting, but they don’t translate quite as well when listening outside of that environment.  Mogwai are currently touring the album across the globe, but sadly, no further dates have been released for Australia as yet. Let’s hope that they play in front of our country’s sun soon.

Q

Comments are closed.