20 things we love about Mogwai

Ahead of their 20th anniversary gigs, here are 20 things that we love about Mogwai

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This article is from 2015.

20 things we love about Mogwai

Credit: Steve Gullick

From death parties in George Square to lighting up the Royal Albert Hall, Mogwai have been keeping us enthralled for two jam-packed decades. As their anniversary gigs approach, here are 20 things that we love about the cuddly post-rock legends.

1. Song titles
Here are five corkers: ‘A Cheery Wave from Stranded Youngsters’, ‘Oh! How the Dogs Stack Up’, ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’, ‘I Love You, I’m Going to Blow Up Your School’ and ‘How to Be a Werewolf’.

2. Band baiting
Stuart Braithwaite may have cooled off on tearing strips from other acts these days, but who can ever forget his slating of Blur (‘absolute garbage masquerading as the people's band’), Coldplay (‘spineless music, shite songs’) and Air (‘a band I hate for any number of stupid reasons’). Yes, but what do you really think of them?

3. Thatcher Death Party
By some curious piece of Nostradamus-like forethought, Mogwai predicted the gathering of a Thatcher death party in George Square. By writing a song in 2011 entitled ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’, two years before she exeunted stage right (it wouldn’t be stage left, would it?).

4. Collaborations
How’s this for a line-up of partnerships: Douglas Gordon, Gruff Rhys, Clint Mansell, Faust, Aidan Moffat and the Cowdenbeath Brass Band.

5. Soundtracks
That collaboration with the Turner Prize-winning Scotsman Douglas Gordon was a soundtrack for the suitably existentialist movie about French genius Zinedine Zidane. Carrying on the Gallic theme, they brought a suitably haunting vibe to Les Revenants, the zombie-ish drama shown on Channel 4 in 2013.

6. Iggy Pop
One of the band’s heroes, his voice can be heard at the start of second album, Come On Die Young, sampled from a tetchy interview on Canadian TV in which he denounces the term ‘punk rock’.

7. Barbra Streisand
Possibly the only thing Mogwai have in common with the singer-actress is their own personal take on Jewish prayer ‘Avinu Malkeinu’. Compare and contrast her version with their epic instrumental ‘My Father, My King’.

8. Lionel Richie
Legend has it that the title of the final track from Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, was named after the very words spoken by Stuart Braithwaite to Lionel Richie upon a chance meeting at an airport: ‘you’re Lionel Richie’. Well, what else was he to say: ‘hello, is it me you’re looking for?’

9. Fitba’
They’re just normal guys who like their team. And occasionally, a fondness for the green and white part of Glasgow will creep into their work. Such as ‘Scotland’s Shame’ which gently mocked the red, white and blue element of the city, and ‘Hugh Dallas’, a ‘tribute’ to the one of the most controversial Scottish referees of our time.

10. Rock Action
Their own label has given us the likes of Errors, Remember Remember, Sacred Paws and the James Orr Complex as well as, obviously, some classic Mogwai.

11. Sick Anchors
In 2002, Stuart Braithwaite became part of the Sick Anchors project alongside Aidan Moffat, a clear highlight of which was their cover of Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’.

12. Videos
We’ll all have our own favourites, but how about the skydiving of ‘Simon Ferocious’, the scratchy animation of ‘Batcat’ or ‘Stanley Kubrick', as directed by Brian Griffin? Not the Family Guy dog, we’re pretty sure.

13. Scary album covers
There’s 1999’s Come On Die Young with band member Dominic Aitchison looking a bit demonic (is it a coincidence that Blair Witch Project came out that same year?), while The Hawk is Howling actually features a non-verbalising eagle. As for Mr Beast: we don’t even want to think about what might be going on in that collage of weirdness.

14. It’s not all loud-quiet-loud
Their longstanding reputation is of a band who blast our senses with a wall of sound before gently lulling us into a false sense of calm before pummeling our ears again, all within the one track. But more recently things have gone a little bit electronica in the ‘Gwai camp with their most recent album cementing them as an altogether different post-rock beast.

15. Rave Tapes
Nominated for the Scottish Album of the Year Award, Rave Tapes received almost universal fours out of five (or 7/10 if you’re the NME) and if you can listen to the moment in ‘Remurdered’ where it picks up the pace without involuntarily nodding your head in a repetitive and rhythmic fashion, you may well have no soul.

16. Whisky
Sophisticated chaps that they are, the band released their own brand of whisky called RockAct81w, limited to 324 bottles.

17. Celeb fans
Robert Smith of the Cure and Frank Black of the Pixies are two, and Ian Rankin is another. Maybe Lionel Richie? That remains unconfirmed.

18. Berlin
Mogwai are officially now a Glasgow-Berlin band with Barry Burns having moved out there to co-run a bar which he has compared to Glasgow’s The Doublet. Continuing the Germanic feel, Stuart Braithwaite has nominated Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ as having the finest guitar solo in music history.

19. Vocoder
The voice encoder synthesis system has had a rather mixed musical history having been utilised by everyone from Phil Collins to ELO and Kraftwerk to the Clockwork Orange soundtrack. Mogwai gave it a new lease of life on 2001’s Rock Action.

20. Playing live
The band may be doing two shows as part of their 20th anniversary celebrations at their spiritual home of Barrowlands, but Mogwai’s mighty sound has also filled such grand UK auditoria as the Usher Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.

Mogwai play two 20th Anniversary Shows at the Barrowlands, Glasgow, Sat 20 Jun, with support from Loop, Prolapse and Pye Corner Audio; and Sun 21 Jun and with support from The Vaselines, Forest Swords and Sacred Paws. Mogwai are also collaborating with Edinburgh-based skate shop, Focus, details announced on Sat 30 May. For more info see http://focuspocus.co.uk/

Mogwai

Glaswegian post-rock instrumental heroes. Mogwai formed in Glasgow in 1995 and unusually for a band with over 20 years experience under their belts they're retained the same line-up since they started work on their second album Come On Die Young. Members of the band include Stuart Braithwaite, John Cummings, Dominic…

O2 Academy Brixton, London SW9

Fri 15 Dec

£35.25 / 0844 477 2000

The SSE Hydro, Glasgow

Sat 16 Dec

£35.75 / 0141 248 3000

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