For twenty-two years Mogwai have been making the rest of us metaphorically pass out: in rapturous awe, in brutalised dread and transcendental promise. Since 1995 Glasgow’s post-rock pioneers have been a sonic perfect storm, the musical equivalent of both Francis Bacon’s horror paintings and William Blake’s visions of angels in the trees (or, if you like, the aural equivalent of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul, except by exuberant Scottish jesters in sturdy rain- wear, here in the 21st Century).
These are exceptional days for the Lanarkshire quartet, now in their 22nd year of creative singularity. Eighth studio album Rave Tapes was a top ten album in 2014, “in the proper charts,” notes a chuffed Braithwaite (on its release, the biggest-selling vinyl album of 2014); their 20th anniversary ATP season at Camden’s Roundhouse in 2015 featured artists who’d inspired them (Public Enemy, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, GZA, The Jesus & Mary Chain); an email correspondence began in 2015 between Braithwaite and his hero Iggy Pop (16 years after Punk Rock from Come On Die Young featured a sample of Iggy Pop gnarling, mag- nificently, over “trashy old noise” in 1977) while the Atomic tour of 2016/17 was acclaimed worldwide, includ- ing their show in Hiroshima, a dramatic experience which moved the band to tears. “It became kind of 3D and really on top of you,” notes Burns, “I count that tour as one of our best achievements.”
Arriving in 1995 Mogwai were 70s-born punk rock renegades who “hated everything”, who named them- selves after the comedy-horror gonk in Gremlins, whose lifelong politicised worldview inspired the 1998 EP No Education = No Future (Fuck The Curfew), an indignant protest against a Strathclyde Police initiative demonising Lanarkshire teenagers. Skateboarding kids who loved Nirvana, The Cure and Star Wars, their 1999 merchandising t-shirt in the pre-millennial, post-Britpop wilderness declared Blur: Are Shite. They aligned themselves, instead, with the symphonic divinity of Canada’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor, their own terror-rock epic Mogwai Fear Satan (from debut album Young Team, 1997) pioneering late-90s “post rock” instrumental sorcery. Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, with late-90s foresight, pronounced them “the band of the 2Ist century”. Their autonomous, uncompromising attitude remains steadfast today, releasing music on their own Rock Action label since 2010, now home to a diverse spectrum of equally maverick minds.