Trackpacking: Mogwai

by Keith Savage


Trackpacking is a recurring series highlighting musicians that inspire me to travel.

This month’s Trackpacking post marks the one year anniversary of this series (have a look at previous Trackpacking posts)! It seems only fitting that I tackle a Scottish band just days before I head off to Scotland. Far from any similarity to the fuzzy little critters in Gremlins, Mogwai are a five-piece clan of axe-shredders bent on dazzling you with melodious interludes prior to annihilating your ears with riffs so heavy they emit their own g-forces.

Here’s a business idea: Mogwai should ship their albums with a set of ear plugs; at their live shows, they’re a prerequisite as important as your ID, I kid you not.

But Mogwai is not so easily relegated to a specific genre or soundscape. Much to the band’s annoyance, they’re often referred to as post-rockers, primarily because the music is largely instrumental. On some songs their metal tendencies show through, such as in “Like Herod” and “Glasgow Megasnake,” while in the 20-minute-long epic “My Father My King” Mogwai ventures into art rock territory. Then, seemingly from nowhere, the layers of distortion are pulled back to reveal a soft touch in songs like “Kids Will Be Skeletons.”

Mogwai are masters of mood and melody. Just as any functioning human has multiple emotions and mood, so, too, do Mogwai’s albums. It’s this reason that makes their music such an excellent soundtrack to travel – I can easily swing from unfettered joy to jittery frustration to crushing melancholy on any given day on the road – and it’s special to find a band that can comfortably match moods shot for shot.

Mogwai’s musical concoction is unique: strip out the vocals, throw in the moody twinges, and add long songs with movements and you’ve got something akin to anti-pop music. And the music is epic throughout their catalog. Seeing them play live, which I had the opportunity to do back in 2009 in Chicago, is equally epic. Chicago’s Metro Theater didn’t hold up well to the sonic assault: bits of plaster and dessicated bugs rained down from the lofty ceiling throughout the course of Mogwai’s set.

I didn’t care; my mind was far away, lost in a world of Mogwai’s making.

Pack These Tracks

Create a Moment with Mogwai

  • Flip through your mini photo album of loved ones as the train speeds through the countryside (caution: tears).
  • Stumble home from the pubs and reflect on the incredulity of your journey.
  • Scratch out a message to home in a foreign coffee shop.

What music moves you to travel? I love finding new music for my travels!

Original photos by Jase the Bass and Andy Field (Hubmedia) via Flickr under Creative Commons

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