Release Date: Oct 23, 2015
Record label: Chemikal Underground
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Mogwai have always had a sense of fun, and you can just imagine them thinking of the title Central Belters - a pun on their area of Scotland - years in advance, biding their time before they can use it on a suitable release. Central Belters is an epic collection, 34 tracks in 219 minutes, spread over three CDs, or six LPs.
As Mogwai closed in on their 20th anniversary, they released Central Belters, a sprawling career retrospective whose title riffed on the Central Belt region of Scotland they called home. Though the collection spans 34 tracks in 219 minutes, there are some unexpected omissions: the band's first full-length, Young Team, is represented only by its imposing closing track, "Mogwai Fear Satan," while another of the album's definitive songs, "Like Herod," is nowhere to be found. Quirks like these may frustrate completists, but they offer a more unique viewpoint of the band's body of work as they evolved from Slint-worshiping post-rockers into something more complex and eclectic.
Scottish post-rock band Mogwai are celebrating 20 very noisy years together with their first all-encompassing best-of titled Central Belts. These guys have released compilations before, but they’ve been of the specialized kind like collected BBC sessions, scattered early recordings, and a consolidation of three EPs. Central Belts nearly goes all in, giving us a (as of this writing) reasonably priced triple album (six discs for vinyl collectors) spanning more than three and a half hours.
During their rise to prominence very few onlookers would have predicted that post-rock upstarts Mogwai would have the staying power to be receiving the 20th anniversary anthology treatment. A bunch of disillusioned teenagers with a predilection for pranksterish behaviour and bold statements, they couldn’t have been further from their moribund post-rock peers. Debut album Young Team (represented here by the tumultuous statement of intent, Mogwai Fear Satan) and contemporary single New Paths To Helicon Pt 1 showed that while their undoubted ability to make massive amounts of noise was never in question, they were able to harness that into something quite thrilling and often very moving.
In the vinyl-revival era, the box set exists for primarily completists and Record Store Day hoarders—by repackaging entire discographies in 180-gram reissues, they forsake curation for comprehensiveness. But in their initial '80s iteration as CD-stacked behemoths, box sets were actually designed for the casual fan. The earliest paragons of the format—Bob Dylan's Biograph, David Bowie's Sound+Vision—presented expertly compiled overviews of a veteran artist, weaving in hit singles, choice album tracks, rarities and live cuts to form a chronological portrait of their evolution.
Mogwai must be surprised to find themselves here. Eternally sprawling soundscapes, barely a sing-a-long moment and nothing in the way of radio friendly unit shifters – it’s hardly the typical recipe for top-ten album chart success. Somehow they’ve managed to etch their sound indelibly into the consciousness of many. These days, Mogwai may even be able to compete with the fame of the critter that lent them their name – unthinkable when the band got together for those first few practice sessions in 1995, I’m sure.
It’s a good job Mogwai are signed to their own label, Rock Action, because it’s hard to imagine anybody else would have been mad enough to countenance the release of Central Belters. The 3CD/6LP set is, loosely speaking, a best of album. It is incredibly long, doesn’t feature any hit singles (because Mogwai don’t have any hit singles), and despite the odd rarity harvested from band’s frequent below-the-radar EPs, it’s highly unlikely that its nominal target audience won’t in actual fact already own most of this music.
Mogwai — Central Belters (Rock Action)Mogwai have certainly had a momentous 2015. The band didn’t produce a new album proper in their 20th year but, rather, celebrated the anniversary with a packed series of gigs at home (leaving some of us bereft that we couldn’t get over to the UK to see Prolapse play live, the legendary Sheffield group having reformed for the occasion — if nothing else, we should be grateful to Mogwai for that). Sadly, in November, original member John Cummings announced he was leaving the band, marking the first change to a remarkably steady lineup since Barry Burns formally joined in 2008.
For a band with a history and sound as rich as Mogwai's, it's not unfair to suggest that Central Belters – a three disc selection of the band's biggest hitters and rarities – has been a long time coming. However, to place too much in the hands of warranty would be a disservice. There's much to be said for longevity and consistency, and in the case of Mogwai it seems they've found that balance in the purist of all places.