Music

Blindfolds Off

Mogwai Polishes the Beast

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IF THERE IS ONE LESSON the age of the music blog has taught us, it is that music fans are a fickle bunch. This week's "next big thing" is next week's "hey, it's $1.99 in the cutout bin." Corralling indecisive listeners has become a full-time occupation for some bands. (When a friend of a friend's band was signed recently, part of their contract stipulated that they spend two hours a day networking on MySpace.) The members of Mogwai, however, want no part in this. "Our fans are a loyal group," says guitarist Stuart Braithwaite. "They've really stuck with us for the past 10 years." When asked about the web, he replies, "Well, we look at fansites to see if they've posted any funny pictures of us. I'm not really sure how I feel about blogs. I don't pay much attention."

Braithwaite's contrarian attitude extends to music festivals like South by Southwest and Coachella, both of which Mogwai recently played. He gives the gatherings a shrug off, stating that Coachella "starts too early in the day" and that South by Southwest is full of "jaded industry people." He continues, "I prefer to play for normal people; it's better to play for fans."

Mogwai's fans have certainly had plenty of chances to be entertained. The Scottish band tours nonstop; their current outing is the second of three North American tours they have planned for 2006.

Not bad for a band whose core members met at a Ned's Atomic Dustbin concert and formed the band in 1995. Naming themselves after the Chinese word for "ghost" (referenced from Gremlins), the band released its first record, Young Team, in 1997. It was with the unveiling of the second record, Come on Die Young, that Mogwai's star began to rise stateside. They dropped Rock Action and Happy Songs for Happy People in 2001 and 2003, respectively, and just released their fifth full-length, Mr. Beast, in March.

When asked how the new record differs from the last several, Braithwaite replied, "I don't think it is dramatically different. We did it in our own studios, and consequently had much more time to work on it. It took about five months, and since we weren't under pressure financially, we could afford to experiment more and take time to make it perfect. In the past, we always went in a little bit blindfolded, which can be exciting, but this new record feels really polished."

While the critical and fan reaction to Mr. Beast has been mixed, the consensus seems to be that Mogwai really shines on stage. "They bring it, and they bring it loud," wrote one fan on brooklynvegan.com. The band is also traveling with their own light engineer for the first time, and if the early shows on the tour are any indication, fans should be prepared for a laser-light extravaganza. It's just one of the many ways Mogwai reward the loyal listeners who haven't abandoned them for passing fads.

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