If there’s one thing Every Country’s Sun makes clear, it’s that there is no such thing as the average Mogwai sound, and no such thing as the average Mogwai fan. The Glaswegian band’s catalogue spans a wide array of sounds and styles, from loud and proud (like Mr. Beast) to the electronic beats of Rave Tapes. So it’s hard to consider any one record a definitive “best album,” or even one considered to be a magnum opus or pinnacle. Instead, all we have are our own tastes and preferences. And if you prefer the band’s sharper use of distortion à la Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will but thought that album was a bit too happy, Every Country’s Sun is your cup of tea.
We were lucky to catch Mogwai in action at the recent Dark Mofo in Hobart, where the band performed a chunk of new material live. On stage, we described it as ‘powerful’, and the sentiment has more than delivered on record.
There’s a lot to like about the direction Every Country’s Sun takes the band. Opening the album, Coolverine offers a new energy we haven’t really heard before. It borrows heavily from last year’s haunting soundtrack Atomic, which in itself was a more mature extension of the synth-driven Rave Tapes. That said, even the most subdued track on Every Country’s Sun is as guitar-led and non-electro-focused as their first few albums.
If The Hawk Is Howling and Hardcore Will Never Die had a child, this would be it; Party In The Dark is a more radio-friendly extension of the “sillier” tracks from Hardcore (think Rano Pano and Mexican Grand Prix), while Old Poisons is pure chaos; Batcat, eat your heart out.
In 2017, describing something as guitar-focused may seem boxing, even diminishing. Yet the album, like the band, refuses a label or neat explainer, bringing together a cacophonous myriad sounds across wide, thrilling instrumentation and provocative rhythms. Aka 47 could feel at home on Happy Songs and 1000 Foot Face takes inspiration from Come On Die Young of all things. And still, it never feels derivative of their back catalogue; there’s a clear ’90s rock influence on songs like Crossing The Road Material (which has one of the most danceable riffs the band has produced) and Don’t Believe The Fife (a classic “it has bits that go from very quiet to very loud” Mogwai track).
If the album has one issue, it’s in the pacing. It dances between fast and slow like a sine wave running through the first few tracks, nestles into a languid valley in the middle, and tumbles into an all-action second half from Don’t Believe The Fife to the end. Pacing has plagued the last few Mogwai albums, bbut, luckily, not enough to detract from its wonderful sound and overall coherency.
Every Country’s Sun is truly special. It feels familiar yet fresh, deep yet penetrable, with more to discover upon each listen. It may not be your favourite Mogwai album, but it’s absolutely worth your time.
Image: Brian Sweeny