Liner Note Author: Keith Cameron.
Photographers: Eva Vermandel; Andy Willsher; Steve Gullick ; Pete Millson; Susan Collin .
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. The first two-thirds of Central Belters traces this evolution, from 1996's debut single "Summer" to 2014's "Teenage Exorcists," one of the band's poppiest and most vocal-driven song to date (indeed, the collection features notably more songs with vocals than the average Mogwai album). In between, the collection touches on highlights such as "New Paths to Helicon, Pt. 1," "Christmas Steps," and "Hunted by a Freak," one of the tracks that heralded the band's increasingly electronic output in the 2000s and 2010s. Central Belters includes some fine examples of this direction in "The Sun Smells Too Loud," "How to Be a Werewolf," and "Remurdered" and also reflects the band's ongoing passion for symphonic grandeur ("I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead") and metal ("Batcat"). The set's final third gathers B-sides, highlights from the band's soundtrack work, and other loose ends, although "D to E" is the collection's only previously unreleased track. Standouts include "Hungry Face" from the Les Revenants soundtrack, the Roky Erickson cameo on "The Devil Rides," and, of course, the perennial Mogwai concert finale "My Father My King," which the band transformed from a traditional Jewish folk song into a 20-minute epic. Overall, even if Central Belters doesn't include every definitive Mogwai song, it's still a comprehensive portrait that captures the nuances of their sound over the years. ~ Heather Phares