Mogwai
Zidane – A 21st Century Portrait
PIAS
2007
C-



you know, the one thing I’ll never get about you people is soccer, or football rather,” I said to the drunken Brit sitting next to me on a flight to Las Vegas some months ago. After he had spilled his beer and I offered him some tissue to wipe it up, we began talking. And like any American-meets-Brit conversation goes, we ultimately discussed Monty Python, guns, and soccer.

He tried explaining it to me. “Americans have short attention spans. You like things to be stop and go so you can see all your adverts,” he said in a slurred, quirky accent. In soccer, there isn’t time for Geico cavemen and that, to be completely honest, is sort of a problem for me. But he was cordial enough and we parted ways.

What he said about soccer stuck with me though. And when you’re making a movie, and more importantly a soundtrack, about a game with few bright flashes of light, a paucity of catastrophic injuries, and a serious lack of cavemen, the aging Mogwai seems an obvious candidate. Besides hailing from Glasgow and probably harboring an undying love of the game, Mogwai’s spacey, near-ambient post-rock is perfectly suited for the task.

Zidane is almost completely unrecognizable as a Mogwai disc though. In fact, it’s almost unrecognizable as anything at all. Track by track, the album floats amidst lightly plucked guitar strings and humming keyboards. The splash of a ride cymbal hangs over the disc like a light drizzle. It’s more an experiment in ambient rock than a Mogwai album—it stands firmly and confidently among the masses of indistinguishable Eno-clad compositions though.

As a soundtrack, each song probably plays a very distinct role in the accompanying film, but without having seen it, the album offers little insight. Track titles like “Black Spider” and “I Do Have Weapons” may be significant in the life of the beguiling soccer star, but to a casual observer (more accurately, a casual dissenter), they seem to be completely distant and overwrought.

But this film is about Zinedine Zidane, right? Countless cameras following his every move throughout a single game? Unlike his famed finale, this game apparently didn’t end with him plowing his shaved (balding) head into his opponent’s chest—there’s no explosion of sound reminiscent of a head butt. Instead, we’re left with latter-day Mogwai: slowly crescendoing, distorted guitars that ultimately never go anywhere.

Maybe it’s because I never played soccer. Or maybe it’s because I’ve never stood in a studio and tried to write a piece of music for a movie. But whatever the case, I don’t know where or how it all went wrong.



Reviewed by: Chris Gaerig
Reviewed on: 2007-07-12
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