It seems like a stretch to refer to Mogwai as “young” these days. Over twenty years have passed since the release of their seminal debut album Mogwai Young Team but there’s no denying the impact of their music year after year.
With their latest work, Every Country’s Sun, Mogwai prove that they haven’t stagnated in the least. Here, they continue to compose some of the most emotive instrumental-centric music to grace our collective ears, while remaining playful with their titles.
Indeed, their performance at the Roseland on Thanksgiving evening was as rousing and intense as one might expect from a group of much younger, sprightlier lads. The members have, of course, aged over the years, as their sound has evolved to further define and bend the rules of “post-rock,” a genre term that leaves plenty open for interpretation.
Drummer Martin Bulloch had to sit out much of the tour due to undisclosed health reasons, replaced temporarily with Cat Myers of fellow Glasgow rockers Honeyblood. Yet, from the perspective of someone seeing them for the first time, I was captivated by the sheer presence of these mythical performers, the towering volume of the textures pouring forth from the amps. Guitarist Stuart Braithwaite and bassist Dominic Aitchison remained firmly stage left, while multi-instrumentalist Barry Burns and an unidentified fifth member traded off duties between additional guitars and keys (long-time guitarist John Cummings departed the band just two years ago).
The dynamic was ever-shifting, with the two sometimes collaborating on keys across from one another, other times both playing guitar alongside the other strings for some heavier tracks like “Old Poisons,” sometimes switching gear mid-track.
Truly, this is one of the band’s greatest characteristics: the balance of each member’s strengths and the ability to play a variety of instruments allows them to jump from a somber key-speckled track like “Killing All the Flies” to the distorted guitar layering of “Rano Pano” without a moment of hesitation, each dialed in and synchronized. This variety of their songs has long cemented Mogwai’s legacy as perhaps one of the most readily influential groups of their respective subgenres. It’s certainly lent to their longevity, with a wide range of releases across over two decades together.
The majority of the set remained focused on this year’s excellent release, but some deviations from earlier releases were equally welcome. From Every Country’s Sun, opener “Coolverine” was strangely absent, but the majority of the album, such as “Brain Sweeties,” “Party in the Dark,” “Battered at a Scramble,” and the album’s title track was happily on display.
Among older songs, we were treated to samples of releases from the past few years, but long-time fans were particularly ecstatic about classics like “We No Here” (Mr. Beast, 2006), “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong” (Rock Action, 2001), and the final song from their encore, “Mogwai Fear Satan” (from debut album Mogwai Young Team, 1997).
The sound was handled nicely, allowing for the full range of the band’s sounds to maintain a crisp resonance throughout the set. Unfortunately, Barry’s contributions, vocals and guitar, cut out once each on a couple of instances during a key moment in two separate tracks. The fact that they played on without missing a beat was a testament to Mogwai’s versatility, even in the face of unexpected technical difficulties.
These boys have grown up, but their ability to craft fine tunes, whether for a soundtrack or another release in their growing discography, has only matured with them. If anything, this was a reminder to never lose sight of your favorite things, to seize the moment, and to enjoy all the pains and joys that life has to offer. Come on, die young.