Mogwai Happy Songs For Happy People

Formerly titled Bag Of Agony, the fourth album by Mogwai is another change in direction for the Scottish five-some. Happy Songs For Happy People is shorter in length, like 2001’s Rock Action, weighing in at 41 minutes, but in that time, the music never changes pace. What this brings to Mogwai’s scope is a more consistent sound that focuses more on precision as a band and avoids the "quiet to loud” label they’ve been stuck with their whole career. Happy Songs sees the band discarding aggression and noise for a formula that is more reserved and dare I say, genteel. As always, vocals are not a primary concern, appearing only twice and without any real impact, while the push into electronic experimentation is still rearing its head, entering boundaries of Warp Records-sized proportions on "Moses? I Amn’t.” What remains to be the biggest mystery of this album is how no track stands out, which seems to be the first real point of reference. "Ratts of the Capital” may be the longest in length and offer the loudest guitars, but it still remains to be part of the album’s natural flow, as with the opener, "Hunted By A Freak,” which was chosen as the first video though it has about as much commercial appeal as the band having their own collectable action figures. Mogwai’s always going to have a welcome return, and even though this one takes a few extra listens to get into, it’s very rewarding once the connection is made. (Matador)