There I am, Friday 4th September, minding my own business after the 7am weekly shop/glaring at the maskless in Sainsbury’s, when post-rock masters Mogwai drop a live album on Bandcamp.
Recorded (venue(s) unknown) during their tour in the same year, 2018 is a shorter-than-the-actual-setlist fucking belter of a treat. I gave it its first outing in between various meetings, so it wasn’t until that night when I played it through my poncey new smart table/speaker/subwoofer/something that I got the full Mogwai treatment.
The openers – ‘Coolverine’, from their at-the-time latest record Every Country’s Sun and ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’, from the often overlooked Hawk Is Howling – are comparatively gentle introductions to live Mogwai. ‘Brain Sweeties’ (also from the former) and tour staple ‘Hunted By A Freak’ then lead quite gorgeously into the masterpiece ‘Don’t Believe The Fife’.
I don’t want to bang on about this speaker, which was a late 40th gift to myself, but fucking hell the bay window was at risk when ‘Rano Pano’ kicked in and I had to do what I’ve never done before: turn Mogwai down 😱. Granted it was only one notch, but call me selfish: I want speakers AND double glazing.
And here it is; the title track from Every Country’s Sun. I don’t know whether the studio recording doesn’t do it enough justice or if this is just something else, but this live version is Something Else. Undoubtedly my highlight of this album, it just soars and soars – taking your breath with it. A complete aural awakening.
‘Auto Rock’ bridges this to the last song from ECS, ‘Old Poisons’. This sits at the heavier end of Mogwai’s noise scale and it’s one that makes sure the neighbours really hate you.
‘Remurdered’ is topped by ‘Every Country’s Sun’ on this outing but by fucks alive… it’s a banger. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the heavens opening as this crescendoed in Bellahouston Park last year as they opened for The Cure. I’m not sure if it was spiritual or if I just love raving in torrential rain, but it stays with me.
Ending with ‘Helicon 1’ and face-melter ‘We’re No Here’ (which is the best I’ve ever heard it), 2018 is a gift from above (Hadrian’s Wall) and an equally needed and sad reminder of how live music feels and makes you feel.
Vocals are sparse at best in the Mogwai catalogue, and they’re not missed. They’re absolute sound magicians and masters of their instrumental craft – including the astounding talents of Alex Mackay and Cat Myers. Music to make middle-aged miserable bastards like me cry.
2018 was released as ‘pay what you can’, and I hope everyone does. Artists deserve no less.
Bandcamp waive their slice of the revenue pie on the first Friday of every month. Enjoy your hearing between now and October.
Words by Lisa Whiteman