Mogwai - Happy Songs for Happy People

Album cover

  1. Hunted By A Freak (4:16)
  2. Moses? I Amn't (3:01)
  3. Kids Will Be Skeletons (5:27)
  4. Killing All The Flies (4:35)
  5. Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep (3:05)
  6. Ratts Of The Capital (8:25)
  7. Golden Porsche (2:48)
  8. I Know You Are But What Am I? (5:17)
  9. Stop Coming To My House (4:53)

Matador, 2003

also by Mogwai:

see also... Godspeed You Black Emperor!

On this solid, confident album, Mogwai don their heavy boots, plant their feet firmly in the ground, and do what they do best - slow-burning instrumental rock goodness. There's not much significance in the sarcastic album title, it isn't any more or less melancholy than Mogwai usually are. But like "Rock Action" it's colourful, captivating and, most importantly, crammed with strong tunes.

There are no actual "songs", happy or otherwise, unless you count the vocoder that takes a tasteful lead on "Hunted by a Freak". This patiently pulsing opening track is to-the-point Mogwai at their best, a solid start to a well-rounded album. One particularly happy song is "Kids will be Skeletons", whose big crescendo and diminuendo is relaxed and contented, not tense as you might expect from Mogwai. Its lovely melody is taken by a Cure / New Order-like high bass. Those hankering after traditional gritty-style Mogwai should love "Ratts of the Capital", which grinds inexorably towards a full-band unison riff. In softer territory, the romantic cello lament of "Golden Porsche" and one-note piano touches of "I Know You Are But What Am I" are not revolutionary but tastefully attractive.

A love of computers and hi-tech production pervades. As well as the ultra-careful instrumental arrangements, this is noticeable in the purer ambient atmospheres that they insert as usual. These are successful in themselves, particularly the filmic "Moses, I Amn't". The slowly shifting harmonies and sonic pedantry of many tracks give a distinctive feel of Eno-produced U2, that is, "Joshua Tree" era. The most subtly successful use of ambience is on "Stop Coming To My House", a beautifully-controlled piece of noise and chaos. Its hazy fragments form harmonies amidst a cloudy background which never disperses.

After the bloated "Come On Die Young", they've well and truly learnt their lesson that short 40 minute albums are much safer. So there's little in the way of filler here, just one of the world's leading rock instrumental bands in fine creative health.

April 11, 2006

8 out of 10

(note: album not currently available from eMusic in the UK)

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