When Mogwai first got together in 1995, Britpop was at its peak. But rather than follow contemporary trends, the Scottish five-piece decided to forge their own path. Taking their cue from shoegaze and post-rock pioneers like My Bloody Valentine and Slint, they set off on a journey that has led them to become one of Britain’s most interesting and consistent bands. To mark two decades since their formation they’ve put together Central Belters, a career retrospective box set featuring over three and a half hours of music on three CDs or six LPs.
CD1/LP1-2 covers the period from their 1996 debut single “Summer” up to their widely acclaimed fourth album, 2003’s Happy Songs for Happy People, which saw a real shift away from their earlier quiet/loud dynamics towards the use of more conventional song structures. Among its highlights are “Hunted By a Freak” from HSfHP and “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong” from 2001’s Rock Action. “Like Herod” from their 1997 debut Young Team is a surprise absence, with the only track included from this album being the essential “Mogwai Fear Satan”.
CD2/LP3-4 is packed full of highlights, making it the strongest disc. It covers the period from 2006’s Mr. Beast, which continued down a similar path laid by its predecessor HSfHP, up to their first UK Top 10 album, 2014’s Rave Tapes, which saw electronic elements take a more prominent role. The lack of “Glasgow Mega Snake” after opener “Auto Rock” is probably the most notable absence, but all is forgotten when “Travel Is Dangerous” kicks in. Two of their heaviest tracks in the form of “Batcat” and “Rano Pano” arrive just after the halfway point, while the electronically-driven “Remurdered” and their poppiest song to date “Teenage Exorcists” are highlights towards the latter end.
CD3/LP5-6 is for the more dedicated fan, featuring material taken from various soundtracks, EPs, b-sides and other releases between 1999-2014. Opener “Hugh Dallas” is a tribute to Scotland’s finest football referee, originally appearing on the reissue of 1999’s Come on Die Young. Sticking with the football theme, “Half Time” is taken from the documentary score for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, while “Hungry Face” is taken from the soundtrack to French zombie drama Les Revenants. The most obscure track here is “D to E”, taken from the 2001 US Tour EP with Bardo Pond. Of the highlights there’s “Burn Girl Prom Queen” from 1999’s EP, but the 20-minute monster single “My Father My King” which closes the box set leaves everything else here for dead.
Central Belters had all the makings of a classic, but just falls short thanks to a few notable absences and some weaker material on the final section. However, it’s still a fine addition to the collection of any Mogwai fan, while also serving as a superb introduction for someone who is interested but doesn’t quite know where to begin. Overall it paints an excellent picture of their career so far as they head into their third decade stronger and more popular than ever.
Top Tracks: Summer; Hunted by a Freak; 2 Wrongs Make 1 Right; Mogwai Fear Satan; Travel Is Dangerous; Friend of the Night; Batcat; Ran Pano; Remurdered; My Father My King
Released: 23 October 2015
Label: Rock Action
Genre: Post-Rock; Art Rock; Alternative Rock