by Michael Alan Goldberg

Mogwai

Sat Sept 27

Aladdin

Mogwai has been seriously messing with our heads this year. Isn't cosmic, instrumental post-rock music from Scotland supposed to be obscure, the domain of catharsis-seeking guitar geeks and indie kids with tattered NMEs in their messenger bags? Yet there was the quintet's 1997 song "Summer" in that ubiquitous stampeding-bulls Levi's commercial, which debuted during the Super Bowl, fer chrissakes.

And then the gal and I are watching Sex and the City, in which you'd expect to hear a Train song or something. But lo and behold, there's the mighty 'gwai embellishing Carrie's latest romantic peccadillo with "Kids Will Be Skeletons," from their newest disc, Happy Songs for Happy People. Speaking of which, the album is really excellent, without question one of their best, but that's the other head-scratcher--whatever happened to those epic, cacophonous six-string freak-outs? Happy Songs ain't SpongeBob's Greatest Hits, but I didn't expect it to be quite so chipper, dominated by blissfully billowy passages that gently modulate rather than detonate.

Neither did frontman Stuart Braithwaite. "We didn't really understand what we had until we started mixing it," he says. "I remember thinking it was gonna be pretty heavy and it ended up that only one slightly loud song made it on the record. We got completely finished and I was like, 'Achh, this isn't heavy at all!'"

Still, the same cannot be said of the legendarily eardrum-shattering Mogwai concert experience--as that goes, nothing much has changed. To be honest, little has changed on the obscurity tip either. The band has no problem selling out club gigs, but all the recent exposure hasn't exactly translated to gargantuan album sales.

"It's a miracle we can exist outside of that," says Braithwaite. Now that would truly mess with our heads.