Grad school meant hours and hours of reading by myself. Music kept me company, but it had to be a certain kind of music. Lyrics would distract me from my studies, so almost anything with vocals was out. The same went for anything too up-tempo. Classical and jazz were usually okay, and I found some electronic stuff I liked, but I’m a rock guy at heart. So I ended up listening to a lot of mostly instrumental bands that alternated slow, atmospheric sounds with loud, raging guitars and drums. At some point I realized that at least half the music I was listening to sounded like Mogwai.
For the past 15 years, Mogwai has been the undisputed leader of its corner of the rock universe. The Scottish band’s music often gets lumped in with the so-called post-rock scene of the mid-’90s, but when Mogwai turns up the volume (and Mogwai is famous for getting punishingly loud in concert), there is nothing “post” about its rock: Mogwai can pummel you like the heaviest metal you’ve ever heard. (It sounds all the heavier when the loud part comes along after a song has been drifting along quietly for six minutes.)
And Mogwai has been around long enough to inspire legions of other bands, all employing a similar mix of mostly instrumental sounds, mostly traditional rock instrumentation, and a sense of high drama when it comes to volume levels. A lot of these bands even borrow another page from Mogwai’s playbook by giving their most powerful instrumental songs goofy titles. It was mostly these bands, more than Mogwai itself, that I played when I was studying. Mogwai is just too good to be background music.
MOGWAI: Belly Up Tavern, Sunday, June 3, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $27.