Reviews Mogwai Happy Songs For Happy People

Mogwai

Happy Songs For Happy People

The indie nation are a bunch of whiners. Not only that, but they're pretentious, snobbish, and apparently humorless. Probably why Mogwai has always stuck out like a sore thumb around most of the journalists, scenesters, and bands. From the widespread-yet-untrue "Slint-knockoffs" title to the apathetic attitude that's been widely misconstrued as a general "Fuck you" to the public, Mogwai's always been frustrating, engaging, haunting, and enthralling. Were people honestly expecting the band to make another Young Team? Them making a record exactly like the one that came before it would've made about as much sense as the constant Slint comparisons, which were obviously thrown about by people who had never heard Slint. Two things are consistently true about the band, however: they'll always defy your expectations, and they'll always deliver the goods. The trick is knowing which expectations are being defied and which goods they're delivering. And it was with these two things in mind that I drove up to a Tower Records the day this album was released at 10:30 am to get a copy. The almost jovial, Christmastime-esque artwork, combined with the album title, got a strange reaction out of the clerk. One look at the back shows that the band is, indeed, just as misleading as they ever were. "Hunted By a Freak" hits you from the front with its vocodored vocals and unsettling guitar line, and "Moses? I Amn't" manages to be the first downright experimental song (of the two on this record) the band has ever committed to tape. But it's the fantastic, gorgeous "Kids Will Be Skeletons" that really signals that the record has begun. Three guitars lock and weave around each other, sampled strings, bass, and drums, before reaching a climax so subtle, at just past the two minute mark, that if you aren't paying attention, you just might miss it, as one guitar takes over a simple one string lead figure and the rest of the band swells around it. Tracks three to seven actually play as one long song almost, segueing into each other perfectly, with "Killing All the Flies," "Golden Porsche," and this record's necessary "epic," "Ratts of the Capital," serving as the explosive crescendos, with "Kids Will Be Skeletons" and "Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep" providing the haunting inner workings. "I Know You Are But What Am I?" makes you feel like you're alone in a large house, in a ballroom, alone, when all the lights go out, it's creepy, sinister, and effective. "Stop Coming to My House" is a fantastic closer, somber and moving, and providing one last little blast for the road. Again, Mogwai have done what every critic seems to complain about: they haven't made Young Team again, which most critics tend to get caught on, and they miss the fact that they've been just as intriguing ever since.

8.7 / 10Charlie
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Matador

2003

8.7 / 10

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