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Mogwai - Happy Songs For Happy People CD (album) cover



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4 stars Having previously heard Young Team, an album that I considered a mixed success, I was hoping to find that the band had learned from their successes and failures and come up with a more refined effort. I am very pleased to say that I think they did. I can hear both the explosive elements of Young Team as well as a new element...much better mixing and a much richer atmosphere that at times can remind me slightly of SIGUR ROS. Perhaps it's the string arrangements that most contribute to this impression; I think they are a wonderful addition to the MOGWAI sound. The painfully short tracks "Moses? I Amn't" and "Golden Porsche" best exemplify this new element.

The only disappointments I found are in "Moses? I Amn't" and "Boring Machine Disturbs Sleep". In the first song, while it was nearly perfect, I admit I was disappointed by the amount of analogue hiss I could hear in the percussion. It was such a haunting sound they used--I just wish it hadn't had such a major flaw in it. The other thing that disappointed me was the fact that "Boring Machine Disturbs Sleep" was in fact a bit boring indeed, especially in comparison to the other songs this album had to offer. I've never been impressed with the lead vocalist's unaltered voice, so I consider this track the only true weak point of the album.

But, not enough can possibly be said about the other tracks! "Killing All the Flies" starts out soft, but has a surprising explosion into a refined version of a Young Team- like rock that really makes listening worth it. "Ratts of the Capital" has a similar effect, but is even better...even as the longest track of the album, it just isn't long enough. Perhaps the album's most haunting track, though, is "I Know You Are But What Am I". The piano part in particular is quite haunting and minimalist--but without becoming annoying and monotonous as I sometimes heard on Young Team. The percussion loop is also mesmerising, and that strange, almost Game Boy-like synth gives it the feeling of a cold winter's night under the moon. I also noticed there's something very unusual going on with the time signature--some strange aspect to the rhythm that I can't quite catch hold of, and don't have the expertise to describe. Whatever it is, it's quite intriguing, to say the least, and a very neat sign of the subtle inventiveness MOGWAI has learned.

As if the music weren't enough, I mus truly commend the initiative of MOGWAI and the generosity of Steinberg--as an amateur sound production enthusiast, imagine my surprise and delight when a white slip of paper fell out of the liner notes saying the album had come with a free demo of Cubase SX, no less, and tracks provided by MOGWAI of "Hunted Like a Freak". Imagine my further delight when I discovered the demo has no expiration date and is nearly fully functional. I am not an expert, and I don't pretend to understand even half of Cubase's full power--but what I have managed to figure out, I'm impressed with. I've truly enjoyed playing with the possibilities. Again, I extend my thanks to MOGWAI and Steinberg for this remarkable opportunity as well as for an overall great album.

Report this review (#35033)
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Continuing the experimental flair of "Rock Action," this fourth MOGWAI album is melocholy, melodious, and maniacal. Even more ironically titled than it's predecessor, "Happy Songs for Happy People" is a moody bag of sadness, but pulled off beautifully. There are effects- laden drums, strings, keyboard, and more effects than you can name. The titles do a good job of hinting at the album's feel - "Stop Coming to My House," "Hunted by a Freak," and "Kids Will Be Skeletons" communicate loating, fear, and nihilism, respectively, and it's all done without words. There are no songs, save some indecipherable singing on two songs, by use of a vocoder. And then there's "Ratts of the Capital." If ever a song exemplified the phrase "guitar chatharsis," this song is it. Recommended for fans of highly electronic music made organically - i.e. electronic, but not computer.
Report this review (#35035)
Posted Saturday, May 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The best Mogwai has offered to date, Happy Songs for Happy People is still rather depressing, but huch more interesting and diverse than previous releases. Some parts are very sad, and others are full of anger; but over all, it is a very beautiful album. The sparce use of vocoder and the build up of each song is something that can be expected by now, but everything has improved from what it was on Rock Action and it has drastically improved from Come On, Die Young.
Report this review (#39237)
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Probably the most essential post-rock release to date. Let it be said; I love Young Team, Come On Die Young and Rock Action, but not even the best tracks from those three albums combined would make up a record anywhere near the brilliance of Happy Songs For Happy People. HSFHP is post-rock at its best. Mogwai has finally developed from a young, talented, and rebellious group of Scottish musicians into a full-grown world class orchestra that once and for all differentiate themselves from the monotony of the classic post-rock formula of instrumental calm-climax-calm compositions. Even 1-2 minutes into every song you simply have no clue how it's going to end. As a result of this every single track on HSFHP is different than the previous one, not just regarding the composition, but also moods, emotions, and main instruments, i.e. Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep -> Ratts of the Capital. The only 'real' Mogwai-style track on HSFHP is one of my all-time favourites by any group, Ratts of the Capital. I'm not even going to describe this gem, you'll have to buy the record and hear it for yourself to understand how truly magnificent it is. And this goes for the eight other songs too.

If my English were a little better, I would love to go into further details on this album, but I'll spare you. Instead I advise you to read the reviews by Bryan Adair and FloydWright.

Report this review (#39662)
Posted Sunday, July 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album was a very pleasant listening experience to me, as there are lots of musical elements which I like present on this album. The band has managed to create a very strong emotional load on their music, and the overall feeling is melancholic and peaceful. There was a small joke in the ending of the album, presenting maybe "the happy people" whom this music is made to. I personally found it as a bit irritating ending, as it broke the album's style and aesthetic line, which probably was the intended meaning of this addition. Maybe I'm just a bit humorless person. This was my first album from Mogwai which I heard, and the second post rock album along with Sigur Rós's "Ágaetis Byrjun", so I'm not experienced listener of this kind of music. But these two albums have aroused my interest towards the genre, and I'll check out some other post-rock releases in the future. Especially Godspeed You! Black Emperor seems a very promising band from this genre.
Report this review (#53582)
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is not the best of the Post Rock albums, is a little more simple, it doesn´t have so much harmony and I believe that in certain sense can come be bored, the album is in a way very depressed, that is the characteristic of Mogwai, and it´s good,when you are sad and put this album to your cd player, maybe you can identify with it, and to feel that these in the same frequency that the album, i dont know, maybe im wrong or something, but i think that this is always the part essential of these kind of albums, in fact, the title of this album is totally ironic but it´s maybe a self - criticism. Talking about the music, i can´tt found this album very complex or with a lot of power , it lacks that part that maintain me attentive to all, i feel it doesn´t have the spark, but if you like the experimental albums, you have to listen to it, maybe before that you can get dissapointed, but its a question of inclinations.
Report this review (#55677)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
4 stars This really is happy music...No seriously, it is very joyous, just like the title says. Don't listen to the rest of my review. < No, I can't do that: This is actually very emotional, moody music and sometimes downright sad. But it is very good for whats its worth, a cd that invokes a lot of feeling onto the listener. It is entirely instrumental and has nine short songs, so each song cuts right to the chase. If you like the post rock genre and bands like sigur ros, Explosions in the sky, GYBE and so forth you really can't go wrong with these guys, who are similar to the aforementioned bands, but at the same time, very unique. Post rock seems to be helping prog in its quest to gain the respect it earned in the early 70s and these post rock bands are doing a very good job of that! 4.25 stars!
Report this review (#64606)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I do not own a complete discography of Mogwai. I own four albums: "Kicking A Dead Pig", "Come On, Die Young", "Young Team" and "Happy Songs for Happy People", and also the single of "My Father, My King." Of these albums, and the few songs I've heard off of "Ten Rapid" and "Rock Action" I think I'm able to say this is clrealy Mogwai's top notch. "Happy Songs" is one of the most complete albums I've ever listened to, and I must admit, is my favorite album of all time. In the modern era, the art of an album has been all but lost. Who needs an album when you can just download the two or so tracks you like? Not with a collection like this. Each song is entirly listenable, addictive. Almost every song on this album at one point in time was my favorite on the album, each different yet all somehow similar. The album is undeniably dark throughout its entirety, yet spots of bright and serene beauty often sneak their way into the listener's unprepared ears. Beginning with the slow, frightening clamor of "Hunted by a Freak" and the sad but beautiful "Moses I Amn't", the tone lifts and because lighter and brighter as the incredible, symphonic echoing sounds of "Kids of Skeletons" lift the listener to a whole other place. The pace quickens with "Killing All the Flies", a song containing a terrifying transition from melody to melodic-chaos, a signature card in Mogwai's hand. The tracks "Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep", "Ratts in the Capital", and "Golden Porsche" bring the tone back to its darker side, "Ratts" perhaps being particularly harder and angrier than the other two. "I Know You Are, but What Am I?" breaks into the album with some discordance and a slightly annoying single note played on the piano throughout the whole of the song, but it certainly has its own place. Perhaps more haunting than other tracks, at the same time it could also be considered, by some, more upbeat. Finally, the album closes with "Stop Coming to My House," a dramatic, highly experimental yet rhythmically impressive. Beginning with a far off sound, the song explodes into an in your head beat that lasts until the very end, in which a very scary cartoon sound- track appears behind the music. This album truly represents not just the best of Mogwai, but the best of post-rock. This album is a post-rock doorway to new listeners, and a great return to simplistic yet highly emotionally and involved music for current experimental rock fans. Different from Sigur Ros's slow high pitched opera, and Radiohead's hard-rock/electronica infusion, Mogwai offers something novel in this album. Somewhat similar to Godspeed You Black Emperor, but not quite as crazy, Mogwai honestly exemplifies a new era in rock that has changed music for me, and probably will for others.
Report this review (#69574)
Posted Thursday, February 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars This is the only Mogwai album I own, although I do have a couple EPs that I listen to every once and a while. This is one I bought only after hearing Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Bark Psychosis, which kind of got me started in this genre. The album is decent mood music, and there are a couple points in it which are musically unusual, but overall I don’t believe this ranks among the finest post-rock works around.

“Hunted by a Freak” shows a bit of promise in that the overall sound isn’t much like some of the more mundane post-rock bands I’ve heard in the past few years (Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Sigur Rós being two key exceptions). The variety of sound effects and percussion used sparingly but to good effect and the string arrangements give this a pleasant (although slightly depressing) feel. By the end I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the album has to offer.

The short “Moses? I Amnt” is somber with a heavy keyboard track restrained strings, mostly violin I think. It’s an appealing sound but doesn’t seem to really go anywhere.

On “Kids Will Be Skeletons” I get the same sense of anticipation with the simple and patiently slow strings and guitar picking at the onset. Since this is a post-rock album I expect a frenzied crescendo at some point, and true to form one slowly emerges around the middle. It sounds like one guitar slowly and almost imperceptibly picks up the basic rhythm of the first guitar, which itself then wanders off on a variation while the strings and tempo instruments build to a screech. Another good composition but somehow as it fades away I’m feeling somewhat unfulfilled. I can’t help but wonder if Godspeed or some other similar band would have taken the time to further develop this one.

With another thought-provoking title comes “Killing All the Flies”, another guitar-picking- and-violin work that starts off mild, but really hits the roof midway through. These kinds of intense crescendos are the things that really caused me to become interested in this genre of music, but I think that this is not a good song to play if you’re depressed. I’m a pretty laid-back individual but this one can kind of bum me out if I listen to after a rough day at work.

“Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep” starts off differently than the rest of the songs on this album, with some rather cacophonous keyboards and mumbling vocals. A really uncomfortable listen and a song I still don’t really take to even after many listens.

With “Ratts in the Capital” we’re back to the slow picking guitar opening, odd time signature, and really detached keyboards. This one has the obligatory crescendo as well, sort of. Really the whole middle of the track is an amplified mix of sounds that projects really well, although at times it seems like there is some background noise that almost sounds like tape hiss. Also, the long fadeout (almost two minutes) seems to be a bit pointless, but still overall one of the better tracks on the album.

“Golden Porsche” has a guitar lead-in that reminds me of a children’s nursery song, I just can’t remember which one. I guess this is a traveling song, or maybe meant to project the feeling of a country drive, but it is quite short and yet another theme that seems to be underdeveloped.

“I Know You Are But What Am I?” opens with singular piano strokes, the only song on the album to do so, with some bell (synth?) bells and finally drum coming in about a minute and a half in. The drum track is quite irregular, some sort of weird tempo unlike anything I’ve heard before, but strikes me as more clever than meaningful. This sequence is repeated in the second half of the work with a bit of variation, and then takes forever to fade out. Once again, an interesting idea, but feels incomplete.

So not a stellar album, but a pretty decent listen nonetheless. Not much else to say – three stars.


Report this review (#81597)
Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow! This album was my introduction to Mogwai and one of the albums that introduced me into the world of post-rock. It's a really brilliant piece of work.

What I've discovered listening to this album is that there is a general philosophy on the cd. Almost every song is a continuing progression. They take one simple idea and work with it for several minutes not by filling in with similar melodies but by adding more space and power to the sound of the same melody. After a while you get the impression that this endless crescendo can't grow any more but Mogwai will prove you're wrong. It's like starting to build a house, brick by brick and ending up having a skyscraper. When the skyscraper is finally completed they start taking off the bricks, still gradually, but this time much quicker than before, leaving you to the point where the song started. This decrescendo is so carefully done that you don't really realize when or how this transition happened.

They show you that sometimes less is more. Emotional, magical, captivating, depressing and mellow are a few words that can describe this album. The title is strange and almost ironical but what comes to make it even more odd is the way the album ends. In the end of the last song, while the music fades out, the music from a cartoon, characterized by its black humour, named "Happy tree friends" appears. I recommend this album to everyone. It surely not please everyone but it's an amazing album to introduce you to this genre. Masterpiece!

Report this review (#95654)
Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nice surprise!

Since months ago I'm trying to catch this "post rock" stuff and I've found this wonderful album. Just like Sulateral sais in a previous review, this album is "emotional, magical, captivating" but no depressing but melacholic and tenderly sad. The music seems to flow in a distant galaxy and every arrangement is very delicated.. I mean, even the raw parts of the album sounds magically epical.

From the first and frightening notes of Hunted by a Freak, you can feel the emotional energy of Mogwai. Even when every songs is really good, my highlights are Kids Will be Skeletons, Ratts of the Capital, I Know You Are But What am I? and the powerful Stop Coming to my House; songs full of symphonic arrangements, incredible electronic/organic parts, slow and hypnotizing rhythms... not for first listeners but I'm sure that the real music lovers will enjoy this amazing experience.

BTW the title of the album is totally appropiated...

Report this review (#97516)
Posted Tuesday, November 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is easily the best post-rock album I have ever heard! The way that Mogwai can put together post-rock structure and experimentation, but use it in a pop realm, is simply beyond me. These songs really speak to the listener through small notches in noise, simple string plucks, and other other-wordly noises. This music gives me a picture in my mind of glass-blowing. It has something so hot and dark at its core, but explodes to create something that is surely beautiful and delicate. A must have album.
Report this review (#97952)
Posted Friday, November 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've only been a fan of post-rock for a very short time. A couple days is all, in fact. I actually own a decent number of post-rock albums (Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, Agaetis Byrjun, The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, TNT, and, of course, this one) by the big names of the genre, but before recently, none of them had really struck me (and some of them still don't). That said, I am finding myself more and more attracted to each of them, but only after I learned to love this album, Mogwai's quasi-masterpiece and the best post-rock album I know, Happy Songs For Happy People.

I honestly can't say exactly what it is that sets this album apart from the other post-rock albums, at least in terms of musical composition, but I can say why I find it particularly appealing from a personal standpoint. This album makes me feel. There it is, plain and simple. Happy Songs For Happy People masterfully evokes emotion, and that is, in my mind, hugely important for music. Sure, other post-rock makes me feel as well (Godspeed You! Black Emperor are masters of making me feel bored, to pick a random, fairly silly example), more so after I learned to Like Happy Songs For Happy People, but none (other than Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun) on a level of this album. It's hard to describe in words the effect this album has on me, but I assure you it is desirable.

The music itself is similar to the other post-rock I know, but with one major difference. The songs re generally shorter and the build-ups faster, so it might appeal to prog listeners who don't appreciate the tediously long build-ups of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The climaxes are excellent, characteristic of post-rock, and the band builds up to them perfectly, for the most part. I like to joke that post-rock consists solely of build-ups and climaxes, and, by that reasoning, this album is a masterpiece. The drumming on the album, which goes against all I love in drumming (I like relatively fast drumming with variation, but this is slow with little variation), somehow manages to captivate me, perfectly setting the tone for the rest of the music. Ratts of the Capital is the best song on the album, with a wonderful but brief build-up leading into the most emotive song climax I have ever heard. The entire climax lasts over two minutes, and it's not any ordinary climax. There's the original climax, and then within that, there is another climax, and with that, there is a THIRD climax. And every second of it is perfect. Hunted By a Freak and Killing All the Flies are other good examples of the power of Mogwai's music, the former with a short build-up, mini-climax, short build-up, big climax, short ending format that works perfectly.

Despite all of the praise I've heaped on the album, it's not a masterpiece for several reasons. First off, the song Moses? I amn't works around an absolutely stellar main theme, but then fails to go anywhere with it, meaning that, while it is still an excellent track, it has an air of unfulfilled potential and leaves me wanting. The following song, Kids will be Skeletons, I just haven't been able to warm up to, perhaps because it never truly climaxes in five and a half minutes. Also, on the last song, which is excellent on the whole, I feel the sampling of Happy Tree Friends music really ruins the entire mood the album created right at the end (for those who don't know, Happy Tree Friends is an internet cartoon where cute little beings die in greusome ways).

While not a masterpiece, this is still a must-have album in the post-rock domain. It is able to make the listener feel like few other albums I know. As for what it makes the listener feel, I expect that this varies from person to person. For me, it was simply a mad rush of emotions that increased with every passing second, ranging from sheer bliss to utter despair to pure fury, all overlapping and coursing through my veins, propelled not by my heartbeats, but by each beat of the music. That is how this album affected me, but even that description falls short of doing the album justice. One last thing I will mention before concluding this review is that the album is better when listened to all the way through. The entire album, even the softer parts, pounds with the same intensity as the aggressive half of NEU!, only harnessed in a different manner. 4 stars, and recommended.

Report this review (#110664)
Posted Sunday, February 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I can understand why this album is so adored. The songs became more focused and short, less spacy and more predictable, but they are still MOGWAI ones - the guys play their Post-Rock blalncing between GYBEian utter darkness and SIGUR ROSy dazzling sunshine. Crossing melodies and tunes, wonderful rhythm-section and magic guitars, cellos and pianos...More than just enjoyable mixture of melancholic and joyful moments which fit together very well. I'm wholeheartely recommend this album by MOGWAI - if it didn't bring back my faith into Post-Rock, at least it has brought me hours of excitement and relaxing at the same time, hours of enjoyment and satisfaction. Recommended !!!
Report this review (#117522)
Posted Saturday, April 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars MOGWAI present us with beautiful, subtle, dreamy, atmospheric and moody soundscapes that will play with our emotions and mood.

"Hunted By A Freak" is the absolute highlight for me on this album. There really are no words to describe how this song moves me. It's so beautiful and uplifting. "Moses ? I Amn't" is a dark and moody tune with violin. "Kids Will Be Skeletons" is like the sun slowly coming out from behind the clouds. It just keeps getting brighter and then the sun starts to go down. "Killing All The Flies" is a cool song with vocal melodies and violin. This is a mid-paced, catchy tune that quickly builds 2 1/2 minutes into an aggressive guitar driven song. It calms back down before it's over.

"Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep" has reserved vocals, flute and some annoying sounds that would definitely disturb my sleep. "Ratts Of The Capital" is the longest song that builds to a powerful sound of guitars and drums. Keys come in too before the song calms back down. "Golden Porche" is a pleasant song with piano and violin. "I Know You Are But What Am I ?" has some prominant piano, while "Stop Coming To My House" has some heaviness after 2 minutes and a wall of guitars.

"Hunted By Freaks" is one of my favourite Post-Rock songs of all time, while the album itself is very good but not a masterpiece in my opinion.

Report this review (#130865)
Posted Monday, July 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars In my opinion, this is the best Mogwai album. The music on this album is just much more memorable and interesting than on Young Team or CODY and more interesting than on any later album by them. Hunted by a Freak is especially memorable with its trippy distorted vocals. Ratts of the Capital is another highlight, one of their better long tracks. Kids Will Be Skeletons is a particulary bleak piece of post-rockage, but yet is still memorable. Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep is a strange yet relaxing track. I suppose that the album is particularly good primarily because it's more memorable than most of this genre. Recomended.
Report this review (#150529)
Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars After a string of promising, but choppy and unfulfilling albums, Mogwai had finally made the masterpiece they were threatening to make. Happy Songs for Happy People is comprised of mostly average-length songs continuing in the vein of its predecessor Rock Action. Electronic elements are more often utilized this time around, including in the vocals; while Rock Action featured a couple of tracks with clean, unaltered singing, the couple of songs with vocals on this one are treated with effects to the point of the listener not being able to understand what the lyrics are. Despite how that sounded, this actually works very well. The melodies are strong and the effects merely provide an alternate way to use the voice as an instrument in the lush soundscapes the band have perfectly crafted.

Allow me to emphasize the perfection of the "soundscapes" I mentioned last sentence. These songs would be perfect for a film. The atmospheres and moods the group creates on this record are ineffable. It's like something uplifting on a gloomy day. Imagine a gorgeous landscape, bursting with life beneath an overcast sky as the sun begins to shine through. Of course, that description can't fit all the songs, but in general, that is the kind of feeling this album gives off. Such juxtaposition may not be new when you describe it in words, but Mogwai makes it new with the way they do it. The production is ever so lush and it really unlocks the true beauty of the compositions.

The band still runs the gamut from soft, pretty pieces like "Golden Porsche" to heavy, approaching metal riffs like in the 8-minute mini epic "Ratts of the Capital." While both of those tracks are wonderful, the band is the most striking somewhere in between. "Hunted by a Freak" is arguably the band's greatest moment ever, and "Killing All the Flies" comes close.

Happy Songs for Happy People is definitely a highpoint in the history of post-rock. Stunning.

Report this review (#172448)
Posted Wednesday, May 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After I first listened to this album, the first thing I said to myself was: "MOGWAI surely has a different idea about the meaning of the word 'happy'". Very rarely had I found a collection of songs that deserved to be called "happy" less than the ones in this album.

The music, though, has been definitely, gradually growing on me. The first time I heard this record, it disappointed me, especially after comparing it with my previous MOGWAI experience, the very good "Mr. Beast". Here, the mood of all the tracks is about the same, as is the speed at which they are played. So, basically, one of my traditional complaints about post-rock was there to haunt me again. At least the songs were all short, something that made me tolerate the repetitive music much more easily.

But after several listens, "Happy Songs for Happy People" begun to take a different form in my mind. I started to read between the lines, to hear the fantastic textures in a much better way, to understand how the whole album is nothing but a big idea, and that it was just normal for all the tracks to belong to the same sonic world. And, eventually, I started to appreciate what the album's title meant.

This is post-rock, made for people who love post-rock. Under that light, this is a collection of happy songs, for happy people. It is in the link of the two ideas where the real coherence of this name lies: if this was just named "Happy Songs", it would've been the most misleading album title in rock's history. But the relationship we have in that title is different: this is happy music, just not for everybody, but only for happy people. For people who would hear through the notes and be able to grasp the entirety of the atmosphere and the emotion, of the contained emotion that the music conveys. A person who could connect with this music and enjoy its sadness, its melancholy, its depressiveness, that someone would be made happy with such a collection of songs. Hence these are, after all, happy songs, for happy people.

I had to say what I think about the album's title as it's very revealing of what it's inside: post-rock played with absolute brilliance. It's still not entirely my thing, yes, but it's, nevertheless, a fine example of what this repetitive and depressive music can achieve if done right: it can achieve beauty, it can achieve magic, a special kind of magic, not for everyone, not for every time, but most definitely honest and unique.

Free of the problem of extremely long songs which makes this kind of music unbearable, this record, much more true to the post-rock spirit than "Mr. Beast", is a better representation of the genre, and, even though I would prefer the latter as a collection of more varied songs, I can say that "Happy Songs For Happy People" is, in the genre's true perspective, the best post-rock album I've heard.

I can't give it 5 stars. I just still feel the need for more thematic variation and a little more changing of gears. I rate it as high as I did "Mr. Beast" and GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT's "All is Violent, All is Bright". But I have no question in my mind that, from a post-rock perspective, this is a better record, as this one manages to achieve magic without ever going out of the strengths (for me, weaknesses) of the genre. Depressive, repetitive, but, amazingly, beautiful.

Report this review (#176564)
Posted Friday, July 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Happy Songs For Happy People is the fourth full-length studio album by Scottish experiemtal/ post rock artists Mogwai. I started my journey with the band a few months back with their debut album Young Team (1997) which I found was a good and professional album but not really to my taste. Then I listened to their second album Come on Die Young (1999) which I was very disappointed about. It´s still a rather good and professional album but definitely not to my taste and I thought to myself that I was never going to understand why Mogwai was such a praised act. That´s until I listened to Mogwai´s third album Rock Action (2001) though. What an eye opener that was. Beautiful and intelligent instrumental ( with a few exceptions where there´s vocals) experimental rock. Rather simple but with lots of layers of motifs and melodies that when put together makes a great whole. The music on Happy Songs For Happy People luckily continues down the same path and another great experience has been given to me.

The prominent use of synths, piano and keyboards on Rock Action (2001) is taken to new levels on Happy Songs For Happy People and those instruements are now a big and integrated part of Mogwai´s sound. The music is rather simple and alternates between mellow sections and louder multilayered sections. Great emotions are build out of the beautiful yet subdued melodies and often you have to listen really well to hear everything that´s going on. Even though they play a whole different type of music I think the French electronic pop/ rock duo Air is a reference that I will mention. Their use of layered melodies that compliment each other and generally mellow mood is very much like Mogwai´s approach (Mogwai has more rock elements though). A song like I Know You Are But What am I? could almost have been an Air song IMO. There are nine songs on the album and only one longer song in Ratts of the Capital. It´s a beutiful and powerful song that builds from mellow to a great climax. Other standout songs on an overall very strong album is the opener Hunted by a Freak, the beautiful and melancholic Moses? I Ain't which features cello and Killing All the Flies. But as mentioned Happy Songs For Happy People is a very strong album and there are no weak songs to my ears.

The musicianship is excellent. Nothing technically challenging but there´s lots of emphasis on emotion and attention to detail.

The production is warm and pleasant.

Happy Songs For Happy People hasn´t surprised me much as I did expect a great album from Mogwai after listening to Rock Action. The only fault I can think of is that maybe Happy Songs For Happy People sounds a bit too much like its predecessor but the more I listen to it the more the differences between the two albums become apparent, so I´m sure it´s just a matter of time before I´ll think of them as two entirely seperate entities. Happy Songs For Happy People proves that Mogwai didn´t just make a one-shot great album with Rock Action and they can now count me as a fan. A deserved 4 star rating from me. Excellent album.

Report this review (#204962)
Posted Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I love this group! The music, the attitude, the humor, the melodies, and pure originality of almost everything they write, but this one caught me by surprise. If you're a post rock fan then (IMO) Mr. Beast, and Young Team are two essential albums, and if you're a post rock fan then you DO own those albums, and should know that Mogwai are amongst the most influential groups in the genre they don't even consider themselves part of. Happy songs for happy people isnt the masterpiece this site has made it out to be though. It seems lacking in the areas that Young Team, and especially Mr. Beast excel in.

The albums shining moment is in the opener. Hunted by a freak is without doubt the albums biggest song, and in saying that, one of the bands biggest songs! The song takes a really simple arpeggio, some vocoder vocals, and multiple layers of keyboards to make an excellent dynamic song that evens runs in the standard pop structure of verse chorus verse bridge chorus. Throughout the rest of the album the group will go through varies different aesthetics, such as experimental (Moses I amnt, I know you are but what am I), Heavy(ish) (Killing all the flies, Ratts of the Capital), and pretty (Kids will be skeletons, Boring machines disturbs sleep), all of them solid, and excellent representations of the bands sound in their respective places. As an album though, with all this different sonic travel, and experimentation, I cant help but I feel a little empty at the end. There doesn't seem to be a prominent theme. The Title of the album is "Happy songs for happy people", but not all the songs are/make me feel happy/pretty, not all of them have heaviness, in fact very few of them do, and not all of them are experimental.

In the end, the album seems more or less scatter brained to me, like they put together a bunch of good songs, made throughout different periods of the bands history, past, present, and future, and kind of threw them all into a 45 minute long disc, with little thought put towards a central theme or idea. I may be roasting the music a little too much though, really all the songs are very solid, Kids will be skeletons is gorgeous, and Killing all the flies has one of the best bass lines this band became famous for since Young team. It's just that I feel a lack of composure, if some of these songs were thrown onto different albums, they probably would have only made those albums better, but seeing as that didnt happen, this album will get three stars from me.

Report this review (#217825)
Posted Saturday, May 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Mogwai is one of the premier post rock bands, and one of the earliest members of the genre. They make ominous, foreboding instrumentals, dominated by guitar and effects, like a more rock-oriented GY!BE. In my opinion, instrumental albums and bands are relatively hit-or-miss- sometimes it results in an emotional journey (Explosions in the Sky, good Sigur Ros), and other times it results in dull, forgettable affairs (GY!BE, bad Sigur Ros). Mogwai lies somewhere in the middle. On one hand, the music is well-made and doesn't have many random, pointless "soft parts" that fail to be interesting and waste a listener's time, which many post rock bands are prone to doing. They're very good at combining various noises into an enjoyable whole, that calls up emotions- usually fear, anger, or hurt. On the other hand, there isn't very much diversity to the songs- they all seem to follow the same basic formula, and it's somewhat hard to tell the difference between them- if you hear a piece of a song playing, then you will know it's Mogwai, but it'll be tough for all but the most devoted fans to recognize which song it is. The music isn't all that memorable, either- you're probably not going to have this stuck in your head at any point. Though it has its flaws, Happy Songs For Happy People is a unique and enjoyable album. Plus, though it doesn't really count for much, the titles are really cool- they are often awkward (in a good way), and really reflect the nature of the music. So, three stars- it's good, but not really excellent. Recommended to fans of instrumental music and post rock in general.
Report this review (#261144)
Posted Saturday, January 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Post rock for everyone

I've been looking for a good post rock album for a while, but since I'm not a big fan of the genre, most of records I listened to seemed boring to me. I instinctively knew that something in this music really appeals to me, but most often I couldn't wade through these endless slow passages of repetitive sounds. With Mogwai's HAPPY SONGS FOR HAPPY PEOPLE I finally understood what is so beautiful in post rock.

First of all, what is very conspicuous about the genre is musician's attitude to titles. Despite the music is most often instrumental, the titles are there on purpose and they slightly change listener's approach to the tracks. Most often the titles are ironic, disturbing, absurd and funny - that's the case of HSHP too. These songs are not happy, they're not optimistic. The mood of this record could be described as deeply melancholic but it is complex enough to fall outside any definition. Mogwai managed to pick the best elements out of post rock convention, create genre defining album and to lend it an atmosphere of uncanniness.

This music is heavy emotion provoking piece of art, really, so if you don't want to feel melancholic don't listen to it. If you would like to feel a pure emotion deep inside your heart though, you should check this album.

Style and composition:

- Instrumental post rock.

- Evolutionary composition.

- Understated playing.

- Subtle electronic additions.

Moods: Soothing, melancholic, at times disturbing, relatively diverse atmosphere.

Highlight: Ratts Of The Capital, Hunted By A Freak

Report this review (#378535)
Posted Tuesday, January 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I haven't heard all of this Scottish band's albums, but of the ones I have heard this is the most enjoyable and consistent. The album title is pretty funny considering the music is not really happy sounding, but it is neither dark or depressing either. Generally moody guitar-oriented post-rock with some electronics and string instruments added. There are vocals here but they are mostly processed through some computer program; the same one(s) that Radiohead used for Kid A it seems. The actual lyrics are hard to make out.

"Hunted By A Freak" is the best song. Very melodic and emotional. Love the vocals here. Great use of cello and organ in this song. Builds to such a great crescendo with the vocals and drums standing out. "Moses? I Amn't" opens with lovely synth and some guitar noises and cello join in. Some minimal drum machine programming later. Short but sweet. "Kids Will Be Skeletons" is in typical post-rock territory. This song reminds me of U2 or Radiohead for some reason. "Killing All The Flies" is more typical post-rock but much more interesting. More processed vocals here. The singing gets more melodic in places. Nice violin. In the middle gets louder and heavier briefly before mellowing out again and then the drums stop.

"Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep" has not one but two voices that are actually *not* processed, sometimes singing in harmony. Even though the vocals have not been altered in any way, I still can't understand what they are singing about. The music itself is nothing special. "Ratts Of The Capital" is the heaviest song and you can listen to this here on PA. Starts out with almost folky guitar playing before bass and drums enter. Some marimba-like sounds done on guitar strings. Gets heavier and more intense in the middle. Goes into an actual riff when the song is at it's noisiest. Gradually gets softer with this riff still going. "I Know You Are But What Am I?" is based around repeated piano notes. Some synth and drum machine join in. One of the more interesting songs here.

"Stop Coming To My House" starts with some cello, violin and electronic percussion before some synth joins. Then atmospheric guitars before distorted drums enter. Gets noisier. Some studio altered sounds and synth to end it. Some CD versions have the bonus track "Sad DC." It's nothing too special. What little I have heard of later albums didn't impress me much. This is alot more consistent and musically interesting than the first few albums. Happy Songs For Happy People could be a good introduction to Post-Rock, but don't expect most Post-Rock to sound like it. One of the better Post-Rock albums released in the 2000s. 4 stars.

Report this review (#411079)
Posted Friday, March 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 7/10

"Happy Songs For Happy People"'s soothing beauty and little sonic adventures makes it a gem of Post-Rock music.

"Happy Songs For Happy People" has the happiest story of all Mogwai albums, excluding the debut; it is possibly the one that is least snubbed and the most praised among fans, once again if not considering "Young Team". Just to make it more simple, this release is the second best and most effective Mogwai album, the only album that comes close to the magnum opus. Memorable, beautiful, epic, and yet the shortest of Mogwai abums, it certainly gives a strong mark after it's forty minutes.

Musically Mogwai once again change: instead of the flat and monotonous sound of "Come On Die Young" these songs are much more enlivened, they once again have build ups to their songs, as this band truly knows how to do so. Vocoder is a lot more present and is used for a few songs, so that the original voice and lyrics are undistinguishable. But so makes it definitely more appealing for Mogwai fans, for it sounds more like another instrument rather than vocals. The synthesizers are almost never used, it is naturally another guitar-driven album, that experiments and isn't afraid to do so with different sound effects and walls of sound.

"Happy Songs For Happy People" is a collection of small, yet larger than life post-rock gems, smothered with strong emotion and impact. People think that the title is ironic, but I sense something more deep: the nostalgia, the sadness, but also the more dominant hope are moods that domain a person's life, whether we like it or not. Hope and expectations is what keeps us happy, thinking about the things that we are looking forward to makes us happy, just like thinking about fond memories of the past. These are in a way, truly happy songs for happy people who love to dream.

This concept is strengthened and proven with strong tracks like the sonically stunning "Hunted By A Freak", "Kids Will Be Skeletons", "Ratts Of The Capital". But there's also much experimentation with noise, like the closer "Stop Coming To My House", with electronics, like in "Moses? I Amn't", "I Know Who You Are But Am I?", which also experiments with a breathtaking piano melody. Calmer songs like "Golden Porsche", or the more drony "Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep", give another side of this album. However, there are a few moments where I wished there was more, since not all of these songs are extremely memorable, including some I mentioned.

Nevertheless, a very enjoyable album, a little gem of Post-Rock music and certainly one of the very best and most memorable Mogwai albums, because of its soothing beauty and little sonic adventures.

Report this review (#565516)
Posted Thursday, November 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars On Happy Songs For Happy People, Mogwai provide precisely what the title suggests: a warmer, softer, more uplifting and downright more cheerful reimagining of their sound. With what seems to my ears to be less audio snippets and strange tampering with the sound than previous albums, this was an unprecedentedly warm and organic Mogwai album when it first came out, and seemed like a drastic departure from their earlier works. It isn't quite that extreme a change - we're still firmly in post-rock territory here - but it is fair to say that, just like the sorely underappreciated Come On Die Young, Happy Songs For Happy People provides an insight into a side of Mogwai people's usual assumptions about the band can't account for.
Report this review (#659793)
Posted Thursday, March 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars For the most part, this is a more mellow sounding album, yet with a lot of emotion. There are still a few louder tracks like "Stop Coming to My House" and "Ratts of the Capital" that feature the basic Post-Rock formula of starting out soft and crescendo-ing to a climax and then repeating and these have the louder wall of sound build ups, but the other tracks here are more mellow and keyboard oriented with less guitar lead than before. This makes for an enjoyable album with more variety and dynamic variation than previously and thus makes for a better album. The album can be easily enjoyed as background music or as music to concentrate on and still have a great impact on the listener. There are a few shorter songs, including "Boring Machine Disturbs Sleep" that ventures into experimental territory, but as for the rest of the music, it is quite straightforward and mid-tempo, yet still remains very emotional and meaningful. There are also vocals, but they are heavily processed and mixed deep into the overall sound so that they become almost part of the background to the song, and the lyrics are very undecipherable. But this style of vocalization does not take away from the song and fits the mood well. The music is quite accessible and surprisingly not as repetitive as you would expect. There are a lot of layers of sound present and each listen leaves a lot to be discovered each time you hear it.

The album is close to a 5 star album, but not quite. I don't hear anything that I would call groundbreaking here, but it is still full of variety and dynamism to make it an album that I find it enjoyable each time I hear it. I highly recommend the album for anyone wanting to explore post rock that doesn't necessarily have to follow the same formula to be effective. This is an excellent addition to my music collection and would be to yours also. 4 strong stars.

Report this review (#1407301)
Posted Friday, May 1, 2015 | Review Permalink

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