Saturday, August 02, 2003

Mogwai - "Happy Songs For Happy People"

9 Tacos

I don't know much about Scotland. It seems to get ignored like a red-headed stepchild when you talk about the United Kingdom, always overshadowed by its hell-raising big brother Ireland. I think they wear kilts and play the bagpipes, but that's the extent of my knowledge. Ireland produces terrorists and U2, and all Scotland has given us is the namesake for Scotch tape and Teenage Fanclub. But fear not, all you Scots, your country has finally something to be proud of, and though the picture they paint of Scotland is one of gloom, overcast days, and death, you won't really care.
I was first introduced to Mogwai last year, having picked up a copy of "EP+2" on an impulse, and mainly because it was under $10. "Christmas Song" made my list of top songs of 2002 (even though the record was released in 1999, it was new to me) and made impressed me. Somewhere in between the releases of these two records, Mogwai underwent a change almost Sigur Ros-ian in nature. Gone are the overwhelming washes of white noise that made their earlier work aurally exciting, and instead of adding synth parts as a gimmick, they have become an integral part of their sound. "Moses? I Amn't" would have found a place on last years "( )" and for me, represents Mogwai's most drastic change. Now, they could have been slowly changing over the course of a few albums, but judging from the two I have, there is a noticeable, shall I say maturation.
There is a fullness to the sound that was lacking before, though that can be a detraction as well, as in "Kids Will Be Skeletons", a beautiful song that becomes overwhelmed by synth pads and computer noises. In "EP+2" the focus was on the guitars and the melodies, while now they can tend to be cluttered by synths and other extraneous noises. Mogwai are no strangers to blanketing their songs with waves of noise, yet it was what made it exciting. Now it seems as though they have too many devices at their disposal and don't know what they want to do with them except use them. They revisit their white noise days on "Killing All The Flies" a majestic song that succumbs to a wave of distortion before settling back into its haunting melody.
"Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep" is the only song on here with vocals, but I have no idea what he's saying since it's buried deep in the mix. And that's a good thing, because music like this is most effective when the vocals blend into the sound, rendering them just another instrument, not overpowering anything, nor detracting.
"Ratts Of The Capital" is the longest track, clocking in at 8:27', and reminds me of the "classic" Mogwai, with piano lines and again, the washes of distortion and white noise. Beautiful. "Golden Porsche" is a perfect antidote to the intensity of "Ratts..." subdued and calming.
There are other doing instrumental guitar rock, but none keep my attention like Mogwai, or make me want to finish listening. Some people might find the repetition to be tedious, and listened to in the wrong environment, that is a valid case. I find music like this to be perfect for empty houses, where no one cares how loud it is. Mogwai needs to be loud. It needs to overwhelm you.
Oh, as a side note, Mogwai gets major, major props for quite possibly the best CD extra I have ever come across. They provide a demo version of the Cubase SX audio production software and the tracks to "Hunted By a Freak" for you to mix however you feel like. As a commited studio freak, this was so much better than throw-away live videos and "secret websites." Again, a brilliant gesture.

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