Happy Songs For Happy People
Post-rock’s first and only mainstream success story, Mogwai, have trodden a fine line between diversity and confusion ever since their earliest vinyl releases. It’s not as if the mellow, ambient slow-rock of their self-titled EP or the 20-minute ball of fire that was “My Father My King” bore anything but a distinctive Mogwai flavor; just that the two strands of the band — epic, heavy rocking out and less epic, more introspective chilling out — sometimes seemed a little uncomfortable beside each other.
Problem solved. And, if I may say so, in fine fucking form. Happy Songs For Happy People showcases Mogwai at the peak of their powers. Whereas Rock Action was darkly beautiful but under-realized, Happy Songs is cohesive; and while Young Team faltered under the weight of youthful ambition, this newest work is an epic realization of what we knew Mogwai were capable of all along. Fans will recognize old familiar faces — Luke Sutherland, violinist and guitar player (who records solo under the moniker of Bows) weaves particularly magical elements into this disc, and producer Steve Doogan seems to have hung around after his work on the Come on Die Young sessions, turning in clear, full-bodied recordings (no more Steve Albini, then).
It breaks no radically new ground and offers no redefinition of who this group is, but Happy Songs For Happy People is the best collection of songs that Mogwai has committed to tape thus far. As essential as 2003 has gotten thus far.