Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Playground For Open Minds

Photo © Steve Gullick

Mogwai - Angels Versus Aliens
Mogwai - Summer (Priority Version)

Sometimes I shut my eyes and pretend to be somewhere else. I usually end up nowhere in the middle of space, surrounded only by distant stars and a silent blackness. It is quiet there and I like that. There is no interfering, interrupting outside noise at all. Just me. Just the music I have in my head. No other band puts me in that place better than Mogwai.

Over a decade ago Mogwai dragged me out of my Britpop stupor and made me realise there was more to music and guitars than what the Radio 1 Evening Session told me there was. ‘Ten Rapid’, a collection of Mogwai’s early material, was like someone cutting open my head and putting new ideas and thoughts into it. My mind had been opened.

“What moves you about Mogwai is the sense of discovering that you share with the band, the feeling that they have the chops and the curiosity, the ability and will to try anything and take you along with them each wide-eyed step of the way. A playground for open minds everywhere.” Neil Kulkarni, Melody Maker, May 10 1997.

Released the year I, somewhat belatedly and half-heartedly, left home to go to university, ‘Mogwai Young Team’ was a record that changed my life. I spent many late nights lying on my bed wondering what I had done, what I was doing and what I was going to do, just staring up at the ceiling, (which the previous occupant had kindly left several glow-in-the-dark stars glued to) just listening to that album with my headphones on. ‘Young Team’ didn’t answer any of my questions, but it was the soundtrack to them. Quiet enough to drift off to sleep too, and then loud enough to keep you awake with your thoughts until the sun came up. The epic, swirling, thunderous ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ is one fine ending to an album and leaves you in no doubt that you have been on a journey. With few words, it is an album that lets the music do the talking. ‘Young Team’ is a record that means a lot to many different people. Kele Okereke from Bloc Party describes how influential it was for him in this month’s Mojo magazine.

Subsequent Mogwai albums, such as last year’s excellent ‘Mr Beast’ and the ‘Zidane’ Soundtrack, have continued to interest and inspire me like little else can claim to have done continuously over the last ten years. Titles such as ‘No Education = No Future (Fuck The Curfew)’ EP mean that Mogwai don’t need to have a lyrical wordsmith in order to make a statement. Still today, nobody else sounds quite like Mogwai. Uniqueness in a modern-day world of reproduction and fakery is quite an exceptional achievement. All bands have influences, and I do enjoy listening to those bands that have either directly or indirectly, influenced Mogwai’s sound, but when I first heard Mogwai, I had not heard anything like it before, and not much I have heard since has had quite the same impact on me.

Mogwai play Somerset House in London on July 12. With no roof to raise, expect the sky to look vulnerable. I’ll be there in body, my mind listening from the stars.

Buy Mogwai from Norman Records
Official Mogwai website
Excellent Mogwai fansite
Mogwai at My Space
Buy Mogwai tickets for the Somerset House show here