Long-running Mogwai still prolific after all these years
Mogwai completists, take note: the Scottish band is about to rock your world. Or postrock it, if you will.
On June 16, the Chemikal Underground label will reissue the long-running Glasgow-based outfit’s 1999 sophomore record, Come On Die Young, in a four–LP vinyl edition and a two–CD one. Included will be different takes of classics such as “Cody” and “Christmas Steps”, plus a few things you’ve likely never heard before.
“Basically, when we started recording Come On Die Young, we started in Scotland and we actually did quite a lot,” Mogwai guitarist and occasional singer Stuart Braithwaite explains when the Straight reaches him on the road in San Francisco. “And then we just changed our minds and decided to come and do it in America. So, yeah, we got all of that stuff which we’d never released and we remixed it. So there’s a lot—I think, like, 17 extra songs—because we’ve got the demos as well, some songs that didn’t make the album, and a really limited EP that we did at the time too. So it’s going to be quite substantial. An endurance test.”
Mogwai is nothing if not prolific. The Come On Die Young reissue follows a mere five months after the release of the quintet’s latest studio album, Rave Tapes, which came less than a year after its score to Les Revenants (a French TV series broadcast in the English-speaking world as The Returned).
The contrast between those two recent outings is an effective illustration of the range of Mogwai’s capabilities. Rave Tapes adds some electric sheen to things without abandoning the group’s signature slow burns and blistering, guitar-heavy climaxes. Les Revenants is comparatively restrained and organic, centred largely around spare piano lines that impart a haunting atmosphere—which is apt for a show in which the dead return to life.
Braithwaite says the band had little to go on, and no visual cues whatsoever, when it began composing the show’s uncanny melodies. “With The Returned, we had the story and we had some references, but they actually hadn’t even started filming the show when we were making the first lot of music,” he says. “We did different versions for certain lengths and all that stuff further down the line, but when we were writing the music in the first instance, they hadn’t shot anything.”
Mogwai has scored a couple of films in the past—the documentary Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (in collaboration with Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet)—and it’s easy to imagine the band making a serious secondary career of it. Whatever they choose to do, rest assured that Braithwaite and his bandmates are in it for the long haul. The guitarist was still in his late teens when Mogwai formed, and he will have spent more than half his life playing in the band when it marks its 20th anniversary next year. So, how do they plan to mark the occasion?
“We’re talking about it just now,” Braithwaite says. “I think we’re going to do something—maybe put a compilation out, maybe play some gigs. It’s a hard one to call, though, because you don’t want to look like you’re stopping. But then again, it is quite amazing we’ve managed to play together for 20 years, so yeah, I think we’ll do something.”
Mogwai plays the Vogue Theatre on Sunday (May 25).