Mogwai are the Mark Kozelek of post-rock. Both started their careers making albums that wrapped the listener in a blanket of beautiful gloom, but have branched off into different, and (at times) much more playful directions in their later career. They’ve also both received press for their choice words regarding other musicians. Though, it should be noted that Mogwai was selling “Blur: Are Shite” shirts long before Mark Kozelek was telling The War On Drugs to “suck [his] cock.”

Since they’re (primarily) an instrumental band, Mogwai haven’t used their last few albums to plug Panera Bread (or whatever the Scottish equivalent is), but they have let their guard down a bit. Their last two studio albums, Rave Tapes and Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will both sound like Mogwai, but a Mogwai that could join the (George Square Thatcher Death) party rather than just scoff/mope on the sidelines. There was also Hardcore remix album, A Wrenched Virile Lore and soundtracks to Les Revenants and Atomic, giving the sense that Mogwai were having fun trying whatever and wanted you to enjoy the ride to.

Every Country’s Sun, their ninth album, feels like a return to form, or rather, a return to a form. It reunites them with producer Dave Fridmann, who worked with them on Come On Die Young, one of their bleakest albums, and Rock Action, one of their most beautiful. It’s not as despondent or as alluring as either of those albums, but it’s likely enough of a throwback to appease long-time Mogwai fans alienated by the relative lack of despair on their output so far this decade. Perhaps to further drive the point home, ‘1000 Foot Face’ is as out-there as the track naming gets here.

If there’s one word to describe Mogwai besides melancholy, it’s loud. Their shows are earplugs-not-optional affairs, but they’ve never released an album that’s been earth-shaking in terms of volume from start to finish. Even on their debut, Young Team, monumental tracks like ‘Like Herod’ were balanced by quieter ones likes ‘Tracy’. Every Country’s Sun, could be the band’s loudest album since their debut. It starts out low-key with ‘Coolverine’, a decent enough opener, but one that relies far too much on an milquetoast guitar lead and whose overall progression can be easily predicted, all the way to Martin Bulloch’s faster drums leading into its conclusion. ‘Party in the Dark’ is one of two vocal-lead tracks (along with ‘1000 Foot Face’); its bass is reminiscent of ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’, but Stuart Braithwaite’s vacant vocals, sounding like they’re being suctioned by the microphone, are incredibly effective. When it reaches its driving chorus and Braithwaite sings of being “hungry for another piece of mind,” it’s a realization of how accomplished Mogwai have become as pop songwriters.

The ‘fun’ more or less stops there. Or more precisely, it stops the moment the third track, ‘Brain Sweeties’, stops sounding like Beach House’s ‘10 Mile Stereo’ played over a grime instrumental, and starts sounding like an apocalypse of church organs, nervous piano and violent drums. It’s also the first Mogwai song in some time that demands to be played as loud as your speakers will allow. ‘Crossing the Road Material’ has a pleasing guitar melody and fuzz that acts as a sort of rebirth after the destruction of ‘Brain Sweeties’, before reaching an unexpected noisy apex and then ultimately simmering down à la Rock Action standout ‘2 Rights Make 1 Wrong’. On ‘20 Size’, which builds off the ambient ‘aka 47’, they reach another dynamic peak (though one that’s more imposing than euphoric), before finishing with sounds like a rampaging animal being tranquilized.

‘Crossing the Road Material’ seems bound to become a live favorite, as its near-seven minute runtime and shapeshifting gives the band plenty of room to experiment with it down the line. Plenty of these tracks have the potential to be incredible live, but come up short in studio form. It’s mainly because consistently they lack one crucial thing: an ending. The last four tracks are all generally exciting, but each seem to reach a sudden dead end. ‘Don’t Believe the Fife’ is all atmospheric buildup for the first two-thirds before bursting into spellbinding ecstasy and then fizzling out. ‘Battered at a Scramble’ has fuzzy guitars that indeed sound scrambled and it retains that disorientation as it whips you from one backdrop to another, but it can’t make the final landing. ‘Old Poisons’ thankfully charges into action right away and gains an invigorating second wind sounding like a prizefighter with two black eyes and a missing tooth coming back to rally. However, it stops before it can reach knockout status. The closing title track (rather timely considering the recent eclipse) starts with a throbbing deep bass drone and brittle guitar before its vigorous second half, which recalls the screaming electronics of Happy Songs For People closer ‘Stop Coming to My House’. Unfortunately, it feels like they just opted to turn off their amps suddenly. The band could've benefited from reducing the number of blatantly ‘epic’ songs. What makes a song like ‘Like Herod’ so special is that it’s unlike any other song on that album.

These aren’t bad songs. They’re very good songs that narrowly miss being great, mainly because they rush or nix the endings. Even ‘20 Size’ has a progression so logical that you want it to get out of its comfort zone a bit more, perhaps mixing its conclusive sensibility with the madcap nature of ‘Old Poisons’. It’s easy to nitpick these songs, because Mogwai have set a standard for this kind of instrumental rock. With more and more live performances, it’s likely they’ll be sculpted into more complete pieces. Every Country’s Sun is a sort of homecoming for Mogwai. They’re no longer a young team, but they can still flex some muscle with the best of them.