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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. Fans will grumble about what is here and what isn't, but then that is purely subjective. The band's selections may not mirror yours, perhaps underlined by the fact that their most streamed song on Spotify 'Hungry Face', the haunting theme from the TV drama The Returned, is tucked away on the third CD, track 32 out of 34. So Central Belters isn't a regular straightforward Best Of collection, instead it is a release more along the lines of Bob Dylan's Biograph, or Stereolab's Oscillons from the Anti-Sun, with its mix of favourites and lesser known tracks.

For Mogwai it is anniversary time. This summer they curated an excellent season at the Roundhouse in London, twenty years after their first practice session as Mogwai, and February 2016 will see the twentieth anniversary of their first release, 'Summer'.

It is appropriate that 'Summer' opens this two-decade spanning collection as it gives a sense of what was to come. That audacious touch of distant yet intense drumming which fades out before the main tune drifts in; imagine using the first thirty seconds of your debut single as a tease. If you dissect 'Summer' you can find many of the elements they were to develop over the years; strong minimal instrumental melodies and, unusually for a band formed in the mid-1990s, a huge dynamic range. The twin influences of bands that they would be regularly compared to up until the present day - Slint and the Cure - are clearly evident on their debut release.

The first two CDs (or four LPs, depending on your format choice) run in a reasonably chronological order, and chart the development of the band from bleak yet melodic noise-rock towards a more electronic sound. There are memorable melodies and evocative mood pieces galore, and there are points where they have experimented and pushed the boundaries that bit harder. 'Christmas Steps' is their first great long-form composition, built on top of a barely audible guitar melody at the beginning and fleshed out by floating member Luke Sutherland's violin. 'Batcat' lurches towards proggy-metal with abandon, immediately followed by the contrasting thrill ride of 'Mexican Grand Prix' which embraces motorik beats. EP track 'Burn Girl Prom Queen' makes good use of the Cowdenbeath Brass Band. 'Hunted By A Freak' marks the arrival of the defining presence of Barry Burns on keyboards - his vocoder-ised singing putting the finishing touches to an eerie-pop anthem. The newest track here, 'Teenage Exorcists', goes against the grain of the idea of Mogwai as a ponderous post-rock act as it is curiously infectious, almost a pop song, with a new clarity to the vocals.

People still see Mogwai as an instrumental band, but around a quarter of the tracks here feature vocals, which is more than the average Mogwai album or live show. For example, the relatively recent album The Hawk is Howling (2008) was totally instrumental.

Apart from the catchier pieces like the aforementioned 'Hunted..' and 'Teenage Exorcists', the other thing that stays with you after a few listens to this collection is the moody, dramatic nature of their music. It is interesting to hear the seeds of their recent soundtrack work planted many years ago. The first hint of moody piano 'I Know You Are But What Am I?' develops through the cacophonous 'Auto Rock', the more complex 'I'm Jim Morrison I'm Dead' and the sinister 'The Lord is Out of Control.'

Although it is thoughtfully sequenced, Central Belters is more of an anthology to dip in and out of, mainly due to its running time. Consolidating twenty years into 220 minutes is a thankless task, although a lot of the live favourites are included. The gorgeous '2 Rights Make 1 Wrong' with its massed vocals from Gary Lightbody and Gruff Rhys is very welcome, as is the mighty 'We're No Here' and the ever present drama of 'Mogwai Fear Satan'. Interestingly, the latter is the only track included from their full debut album Mogwai Young Team.

The extra CD of rarities is well worth your attention, although Mogwai completists will know most of this material already, as only 'D and E' (from a tour-only release) is obscure.

'Hasenheide', the Batcat B-side, gives the A-side a run for its money in the intensity stakes, and there is a guest spot from the elusive king of psychedelia Roky Eriksen on 'The Devil Rides'. 'Hugh Dallas' is one of their earliest conventional songs. It's a bit of a lost epic and the only overt reference to football here - Mr Dallas was a referee who allegedly made a mess of a title-deciding Old Firm derby.

The mesmeric masterpiece which often closes their live set closes this collection too. 'My Father My King' is arguably their best mix of light and shade, a Jewish folk song amped up and drawn out for twenty intense minutes.

With its large amount of released material, it is intriguing why Central Belters has come out in this epic format. Mogwai sit well as an established and important modern rock group, able to rub shoulders with the bands which have inspired them over the years. For instance, it is great to find the beautiful song 'Take Me Somewhere Nice' included here, which features Slint's Dave Pajo. Yet despite Alan McGee's claim that Mogwai's Mr Beast was a better record than MBV's Loveless, Mogwai have never made an accepted classic album like Loveless or Spiderland. Central Belters is as good a Mogwai album as you will find.

It serves as both a (long) introduction to the band and a celebratory anthology of their best work.

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