‘Mogwai: If the Stars Had a Sound’ Review: A Showcase in the Power of Independent Music-Making

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Mogwai: If The Stars Had A Sound (2024) © Blazing Griffin
Mogwai: If The Stars Had A Sound (2024) © Blazing Griffin

Homegrown talent is the heartbeat of every city’s culture scene. One such hidden gem in the hideaway corners of Glasgow is the post-rock band Mogwai, first formed in 1995, an authentic, ever-indie band borne from the busy and thudding steps of Glasgow.

★★★☆☆

With film festivals investing interest in underground music talent—such as Sundance Film Festival London opening with Michael Fassbender’s Kneecap, focusing on the Belfast-based hip hop band of the same name—it only makes sense for Docs Ireland to also try a hand at spreading the word for more of these independent artists. Directed by long-time collaborator Anthony Cook, Mogwai mixes 1990s archival footage of the band’s early beginnings with the pandemic journey of their 2021 album As the Love Continues.

It’s an interesting dichotomy of comparing that initial formation with the struggles of recording remotely an album that then ended up charting to #1. There’s a cathartic realisation in the band’s consistent stance as independent artists and how that in itself was a valuable tool in the trying times of creating that album when physical gatherings and meetings were limited.

That is a testament to their long-enduring success and the positive consequences of staying true to their vision. Stars guide and lead people to specific destinations. In a way, this sound that the band has created paves the path for so many people to come together. “The music doesn’t belong to the band,” a fan says in the documentary. That line in itself speaks for where the heart of Mogwai’s artistry lies.

Mogwai: If The Stars Had A Sound (2024) © Blazing Griffin

Through radio voiceovers and fan testimonies, focusing on incidental moments that led to people discovering their music, even as the archival footage progresses into different periods for the band, it’s clear that there will always be people looking for kinship in the rhythmic comfort of rock music.

Covering multiple decades, the documentary highlights the contrast between Mogwai then and now. However, while there’s a divide between them as kids making music with their friends and as a fully-fledged band with a strong message, the undercurrent of their music playing through the clips is a gentle reminder that these are still the same people with the same vision.

Mogwai: If The Stars Had A Sound (2024) © Blazing Griffin

Time, trends and fashion may have changed, but their artistry remains the same. It solidifies the inspiring impact of how far homegrown talent can come, especially with the constant backdrop of the Glaswegian cityscape. As one fan says: “Wow, that’s come out of our little world, this massive thing.”

The Verdict

Whether or not Mogwai’s music is your personal cup of tea, the effect it has on their fans—especially their long-term fans in Glasgow—is undeniable. Mogwai: If the Stars Had a Sound is an inspiring piece that urges viewers to pay more attention to the kind of hidden gems they might find in their local area. It’s not just a love letter to the fans and the band’s long-enduring success, it’s a love letter to every underground artist out there and a reminder of the big waves they can make in even the smallest of spaces.

Words by Mae Trumata

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