Mogwai are one of Scotland’s greatest rock bands, but they’re not rock in the conventional style of the Rolling Stones or U2 or a million other more popular groups. Mogwai are central to the genre of post-rock, so while their music is built on guitars for texture and drums for propulsion, their songs almost never feature singing, and they don’t use conventional pop or rock song structures, with verses and choruses and bridges.
Where rock follows paths built by predecessors, post-rock doesn’t: Mogwai fly, they swerve and veer in surprising directions, and they generally build up, they climb, getting higher, up and away. The thrill of a Mogwai song is usually it’s approach to a climax, and the thrill of a Mogwai album is its particular journey between the quiet and the loud. They are interested in dynamic more than melody: though they of course feature plenty of melodies, especially in the quieter spells, they’re not famous for their catchy tunes: they’re famous for their textures and noise.
Mogwai formed in Glasgow in 1995 and released their debut album Mogwai Young Team (1997) two years later on Chemikal Underground. It was a ground-breaking release, exemplified by the 16-minute closer “Mogwai Fear Satan”, and while it was not commercially successful, it was hugely loved and influential on thousands of indie fans.
Hopes were sky-high for the second album but, typically, 1999’s Come On Die Young (aka CODY) was a bit of a let-down. Third album Rock Action (2001) was met with mixed reviews but Happy Songs For Happy People (2003) was a more focused collection of songs and probably their finest since the debut. Mr Beast (2006) was described by Alan McGee, no stranger to a good record, as “possibly better than [My Bloody Valentine’s] Loveless”. Fans often disagree on which of Mogwai’s records is their finest - 2014’s Rave Tapes, released almost 20 years after the band first formed, was one of the best albums of that year - but Mogwai are a band whose style, and their overall body of work, are best appreciated when fully unleashed in a live setting.
Mogwai group members
Stuart Braithwaite – guitar, vocals
Dominic Aitchison – bass, guitar
John Cummings – guitar, laptop
Martin Bulloch – drums
Barry Burns – guitar, bass, keyboards, synthesizer (since 1998)
Studio albums, live albums and soundtracks
Mogwai Young Team (1997)
Come On Die Young (1999)
Rock Action (2001)
Happy Songs for Happy People (2003)
Mr Beast (2006)
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (OST) (2006)
The Fountain (OST) (With Clint Mansell & Kronos Quartet) (2006)
The Hawk Is Howling (2008)
Special Moves (Live) (2010)
Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (2011)
Les Revenants (OST) (2013)
Rave Tapes (2014)