The brilliant Mogwai have been mesmerising listeners over two prolific decades, and have become one of Britain’s most important, enduring and innovative bands. Over the 21 years, eight studio albums, a live album and four compilations since they formed in Stuart Braithwaite’s living room, Mogwai have steadfastly refused to sit back and rest on their laurels.
The Mogwai of 2017 is a very different group to the four kids who, in February 1996, released their debut single Tuner/Lower to a musical climate suffering the appalling hangover of late Britpop. Part of Mogwai’s progressive zeal is in their continuing independence and support for artists around them.
In a commercial climate that hardly favours independent artists operating outside the mainstream, Mogwai have always led by example, doing it themselves, where they can. This singularity of purpose can also be heard in Mogwai’s soundtrack albums. While Braithwaite has said that when the band first started they’d rather jump off a bridge than take on such a difficult task, their music for football biopic Zidane and French TV series Les Revenants has been among their finest work.
Atomic was Mogwai’s accompaniment to Mark Cousins’ BBC documentary on the horrors of Hiroshima and the Cold War Arms race and was released as a standalone album in April 2016, reaching number 20 in the UK charts, their second-highest ever chart placing.
Mogwai toured Atomic alongside the film, in the US, Europe and Japan, including a show in Hiroshima. In between touring the band wrote and recorded their ninth studio album, due later this year. The as-yet-untitled record sees them reuniting with producer Dave Fridmann for the first time since 2001’s acclaimed Rock Action. A couple of years ago, Stuart Braithwaite said of the period recording Young Team that “We were very driven, and it was definitely an exciting time. Everyone was hyped up and focused, and a little bit unhinged. It was a wild time in the band.” With the tantalising prospect that Mogwai’s ninth studio album will pick up where Atomic left off, perhaps some things haven’t really changed at all.