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4.3 out of 5 stars33
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 21 July 2003
from the bludgeoning loud-quiet stress dynamics of young team, to the sparse arctic beauty of cody and, more recently, the more organic sounding rock action, it seems that mogwai have never really recorded the album which defines them and combines all the aspects of their sound. however, on happy songs mogwai have gone from having the potential to delivering one of the most beautiful albums of recent times. encapsulating the harmonic, guitar based joyful explosions of young team, the spectral frailty of cody and some of the more 'mechanic' aspects fo rock action; mogwai have recorded the album that they have always threatened to make. noticeable too is its brevity compared to their other work (the longest track weighing in at 8 minutes) which may disappoint some, yet upon listening is just another facet of their blossoming maturity and musical clarity. by far and away their most cohesive, consistent and beautiful album: simply staggering.
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on 12 July 2005
It has to be a five star rating. This album has been accused of being their most commercial but I think that this is only because it is their most polished. For example the joyful, carefree 'Kids will be Skeletons' does seem to use a lot of computer based sounds to enhance itself but the emphasis is still on the live instruments. It is a beautiful song which grows from four slowly plucked harmonics (well, three harmonics technically!)very gently, into a harmonious song with a gracefully subtle (lead!!!!) guitar line over the top - the icing on the cake.
The first song begins with an angry, slightly disturbed picked riff which gathers up the other band memebers as it progressess into the chorus wich is a complex, many layered expression of human yearning (for acheivement?).
The second track is akin to a funeral dirge and, with whip cracking sound I always think that it sounds like being in a pain factory. Computer generated I think and quite hypnotic. The third song is Kids will be Skeletons.
The fourth begins very simply with a melencholic riff, almost minimalist in it's (lack of) content. and progresses very naturally as the band join in, and then builds up with a beatiful harmony between chords and vocoder and erupts into a distorted, desperate part which ends as abrubtly as it began and the song fades in that very natural way that only the 'Gwai can.
Fifth track - weird, vocals, dreamy sounding guitars with some kind of infinite delay effect or something, very simple, odd but pleasant.
The sixth track: Ratts of the Capital is Mogwai's best song. It begins in much the same way as the others, however the bass joins in with the simple, solitary riff this time and the combination of these two well focused instruments creates a beautiful, tragic blend. It's such a good song, and I will only tell that it changes from a minor key to a major one, repeating the same phrase which it began with but in a mjor context. It is (I'll use this word again) beautiful. There are three more tracks on this album but one, three, four and six are the guitar based tracks and are very good indeed. Enough said. Buy it. Now...
This review could not tell of my love for this album.
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on 24 April 2010
Typically ironic title for Mogwai's 2003 album, though it finds them a lot cheerier than usual. The album is one of their more accessible albums, with relatively few noisy bits and shorter songs for the most part. Hunted by a Freak fades in with a wonderful guitar melody. Immediately upon putting this track on, your surroundings will get a little darker, the sun will go behind the clouds, and the lights will dim. Moses? I Amn't? is more like a short atmospheric interlude, before next track, Kids Will Be Skeletons, which is a very gentle track. It's reminiscent of the Cure, particularly Disintegration-era (ie it plods along pleasantly).

Killing All the Flies has a loping guitar figure, with brief noise burst in the middle, while vocal track Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep is almost zen-like in its calm pace. Ratts of the Capital is the requisite multi-layered epic at eight minutes long and features a great middle section of heavy guitars before they drop off towards the end of the track. Mogwai have an excellent grasp of dynamics, and this song is a prime example.

After the Sigur Ros like Golden Porsche, which features violins, and the electronica-tinged I Know You Are But What Am I?, the album concludes with Stop Coming To My House, a sort of so-so track featuring the violins, guitars, electronics and the kitchen sink.

All in all, it's not a major departure for Mogwai but another album which takes its time to reveal itself, and rewards in equal measure when it does.
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on 21 July 2003
from the bludgeoning loud-quiet stress dynamics of young team, to the sparse arctic beauty of cody and, more recently, the more organic sounding rock action, it seems that mogwai have never really recorded the album which defines them and combines all the aspects of their sound. however, on happy songs mogwai have gone from having the potential to delivering one of the most beautiful albums of recent times. encapsulating the harmonic, guitar based joyful explosions of young team, the spectral frailty of cody and some of the more 'mechanic' aspects fo rock action; mogwai have recorded the album that they have always threatened to make. noticeable too is its brevity compared to their other work (the longest track weighing in at 8 minutes) which may disappoint some, yet upon listening is just another facet of their blossoming maturity and musical clarity. by far and away their most cohesive, consistent and beautiful album: simply staggering.
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on 21 November 2015
delivered promptly, good stuff
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on 16 June 2003
It's difficult for me to decide how I feel about this album. It's certainly better than Rock Action which I think failed for me for a combination of two reasons: it's short and it seemed to contain an awful lot of unremarkable gap fillers meaning that there's at most about twenty-five minutes of really great music to rival the stuff that appeared in droves on Young Team and Come On Die Young. Happy Songs for Happy People is also short - 41 or so minutes, but the annoying non-entity type tracks, O I Sleep being a prime example have been left off. The album is full of consistantly great music all the way through.
So why only four stars? On Young Team and CODY Mogwai produced music that thrilled, excited, rocked me, and Happy Songs... does all of this. The music on Young Team and CODY, however, also managed to surprise and astound me. Mogwai pieces have always followed a general pattern of starting quiet, building tension and then exploding. The first albums were full of different ways of doing this. Look at how the band reach the peaks on pieces like Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home, Katrien, Year 2000 Non-Compliant Cardia, Ex-Cowboy... These all have different and brilliant ways in which tension is built up and released. The music on Happy Songs... all seems to follow the same general formula though. The pieces all seem to be built by instruments being layered and added gradually to produce the crescendo. This is a perfectly good way of doing things and always produces great results such as 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong from Rock Action, but I think it's a shame that Mogwai have taken to relying upon this technique alone. It's taken some of the surprise factor out. To say that this is an album full of 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong would be a pretty good summation I think. All the pieces are great, but they're all a bit similar.
All this isn't an entirely bad thing of course. Mogwai may be limiting their music structurally but this means that they can explore this technique in more depth and produce some very interesting textural results. I guess that the surprises come in a slightly different form from the ones on the first two albums.
There aren't any particular stand out tracks, although Hunted by a Freak, Ratts of the Capital, Stop Coming to My House and Killing All the Flies are the ones that tend to stick in my memory after initial listenings. If there's a low point then it's Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep which isn't bad but drags a bit.
The mood of the album is more up-beat than what's come before. Many of the tracks are quite up-lifting in the same way as 2 Rights... which makes a nice change. Don't get me wrong, I love the miserable stuff, but it's good to see that Mogwai communicate stuff other than negative emotions. Don't for a minute think that this is a collection of hyper-cheerful pop songs though; they've still got the dark undertones.
A pretty damn good record then; well worth any Mogwai fan's money and probably a pretty good place for those developing an interest in the band to start. Just not quite as good as CODY though.
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on 13 March 2015
great album
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on 12 January 2005
Nice!
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on 12 June 2003
Man i used to love this band! 5 years ago it all seemed so promising, but after the brain meltingly awful Rock Action I guess it's a miracle they're as capable as anything even as bearable as this. Funny, considering how Mogwai once slated Rothko for making a bunch of tuneless reverb-laden drones, what this album mostly consists of is, er, tuneless reverb-laden drones.
Where Mogwai's music used to have real form and dynamics, here we just get a tired repetition of "quiet start....look it's getting louder-ooh it's quiet again didn't see that coming did you?" then the track probably stops (most of them are pretty short) or if they're feeling saucy - it might get a bit louder again. And the less said about the wretched electronic beats and treated vocals the better. Why the hell do they keep flogging that dead horse?
It would be unfair to say this is a bad record - it's perfectly listenable, but this band always had potential to be a bit more intersting than that. Not as bad as the last one, but it's over produced and underwritten.
so there!
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on 9 June 2003
I really want to like this record, 'Young Team' was such a brilliant record, and had such a profound effect on me, but 'Happy Songs...' just seems to fade into the background. Please, for god's sake, lose the electronic beats as well, they don't sound 'cutting edge', they just sound like every other band around at the moment. Mogwai have always sounded a bit like Slint, but the riff from 'Hunted by a freak' just screams 'Spiderland' at me so loud that it's impossible to ignore. If anything, i think the problem is mogwai are now too musically proficient, gone are the days of stretching 3 note riffs out to 10 minute plus lengths and it sounding glorious, a la 'Mogwai fear satan', and it is replaced with a disappointingly homogenised sound, that if this were Mogwai's first album, would surely not give them the following they have now.
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