bright light ! discog

"happy songs for happy people" 9th june 2003

  • hunted by a freak
  • moses? i amn't
  • kids will be skeletons
  • killing all the flies
  • boring machines disturbs sleep
  • ratts of the capital
  • golden porsche
  • i know you are but what am i?
  • stop coming to my house

  • sad d.c. (japan-only bonus track)

    cd also includes 'hunted by a freak' remixing kit (seperate tracks for remixing, plus cubase sx demo)

    'sad d.c.' is available as an mp3 download from

    sleeve artwork by johnny wilkes.
    front cover (cd version)

    uk album chart - no. 47 (21st june 2003)

    international release dates

    japan: 21/05/2003
    us: 17/06/2003

    catalogue numbers etc.

    cd: pias [pias035cd]
    vinyl lp: pias [piasx035lp] july 2003
    us release: matador [ole-567]
    japan: toys factory [TFCK-87316]
    australia: spunk [URA101]

    the album was re-issued on vinyl by pias as part of their 30th anniversary celebrations in 2012.

    revised artwork

    when originally released, both vinyl and cd were housed in a metallic silver sleeve. this eventually became too expensive to manufacture.

    by 2011, pias was issuing the cd in this revised black sleeve:


    promo front | promo back

    pias also produced a promo dvd titled [E]PK, with an 11-minute film (the band interviewed prior to the release of 'happy songs..' intercut with footage from the 'take me somewhere nice' tour film), biography, images and tour history.

    dvd sleeve

    [e] pk ?? june 2003
    dvd: pias [piasx035dvdp]

  • film
  • biography
  • images
  • tour history
  • image: dvd sleeve

    promotional dvd. the 11-minute film includes band interview footage shot prior to the release of 'happy songs..', intercut with footage from the 'take me somewhere nice' tour film.

    'hunted by a freak' promo ?? june 2003
    cd: pias [???]

  • hunted by a freak
  • one-track european promo cd.

    production/recording notes

    fourth album. recorded in cava studios, glasgow. produced by tony doogan. originally titled 'bag of agony'. album length 41 mins, 50 seconds.

    john and barry sing on the album, but not stuart. 'hunted by a freak' and 'killing all the flies' have vocoder-ed vocals. luke sutherland plays violin, caroline barber plays cello. mick cooke (belle & sebastian) played on some tracks during the recording sessions which didn't end up on the album - they will be released at some point in the future.

    'hunted by a freak' was previously known as 'c#' and 'moomin'
    'golden porsche' was previously known as 'nursery'. its title was suggested by a fan after an appeal for track titles on the mogwai website.

    other titles mooted for tracks on the album included:

  • everyday is a school day
  • john dies at 56
  • jebus sabes
    (these may well have been re-named)

    although it doesn't look like it's made the final cut onto the album, barry from mogwai has confirmed that 'jebus sabes' is the correct name for one of the songs recorded, and not 'jesus sabes' as was originally reported by pitchforkmedia. thanks to clifton tully for bringing this misnomer to our attention prior to barry's confirmation, and for pointing out that it was probably named in reference to a rather notorious episode of the simpsons.

    mp3s circulating prior to the album's release had a sample at the end of 'stop coming to my house' from the 'happy tree friends' cartoon.
    some months before the album's release, a bonus ep (content unknown) was scheduled to appear with the matador (us) release. this was scrapped.

    'i know you are but what am i?' appeared in the nike commercial 'a dream deferred', first aired during the beijing olympics (august 2008).

    matador sales notes

    mogwai's new album, "happy songs for happy people", hits stores on june 17th. the fourth album from glasgow's kings of glowering, volatile quasi-instrumental rock is more subtle and nuanced than their previous work, compositionally beautiful but intense and trance-inducing at the same time. from the prominent keyboard rush of "kids will be skeletons" to the glittering harmonics of the monumental "ratts of the capital", 'happy songs for happy people' traces new paths of heavy concentration.

    matador press release

    it's a treacherous business, trying to explain mogwai. pretension and hyperbole lurk around every punctuation mark. oceanic torrents of adjectives come easier than words which actually mean something. confronted with a music that has all the emotional impact of the greatest rock, but few of its obvious signifiers, you're left struggling to make sense of the nebulous, but powerful feelings they provoke.

    either that, or you just rely on their capacity to give excellent quotes. here's one by stuart braithwaite from back in 2001. "we have no relevance," he lamented, observing the way pop music is generally disseminated. "we have no relevance to that one-dimensional view of culture. that is the antithesis of us. music as a cultural force is a way of life."

    music as a cultural force is a way of life. it's a slogan that has defined this glasgow band for something like eight years now. in that time, they have made four albums and quite a few more singles, records which manage to combine significant might with unusual subtlety, that articulate certain profound things about the human condition - rage, euphoria, melancholy, a yearning for the transcendant, generally big stuff - with very few audible words. in that time, too, mogwai have made an incalculable impact on the way we understand the very nature of rock, though they'd probably think such a claim would be far too crass.

    let's try and remember 1995, when stuart braithwaite (guitar) and dominic aitchison (bass) recruited john cummings (guitar) and martin bulloch (drums) into the band which would soon become mogwai. great slabs of instrumental rock were hardly common currency. post-rock was a technical term used by only a few theorists. slint were yet to become the kneejerk reference point for any band striving to bend hardcore into solemn, mathematical new shapes, chiefly because there weren't many bands, visibly at least, striving to do that. radiohead were an indie band with a u2 fetish. '(what's the story) morning glory' was inescapable, or at least seemed to be.

    realistically, four glaswegian teenagers playing glowering, volatile instrumental rock, with a slowly unravelling dynamic diametrically opposed to the mainstream, weren't the most obvious next sensation. but watching them support the likes of marvellous and obscure hardcore bands like bob tilton, there was always a sensation that here, at last, was a band who could channel and focus the discontent and ambition simmering in all the musicians who felt disenfranchised by the britpop hegemony, who could present this truculent underground music on a grand scale without compromising any of its radical intensity. this, of course, is just what mogwai did. by 1997, they had flooded the market with singles for a bewildering array of bedroom record labels. they gained matching tattoos, a temporary fifth member in the mischievous shape of brendan o'hare, and a reputation for rock'n'roll excess that was both provocative and pleasingly imaginative: the audience at one london show were offered deconstructed amps, as well as guitar shards, as souvenirs during an enjoyably cataclysmic version of 'mogwai fear satan'. the records were good, too. 1997's 'mogwai young team': the bloodied culmination of mogwai phase one.

    1999's 'come on die young': an eerie, stark beast recorded at an isolated studio in upstate new york and with the assistance of a notable new member, multi-instrumentalist barry burns. 2001' s 'rock action': lusher, calmer, more vivid and expansive, more words to identify. increasingly, you were either with mogwai or against them. all passion and antagonism, their collaborators lined up like a coalition of the willing in the battle against mediocrity: guest players gruff rhys, the remote viewer, luke sutherland and david pajo; remixers kevin shields and alec empire; producers steve albini and dave fridmann; firm allies arab strap, godspeed you black emperor! the bill they picked for 2000's all tomorrow's parties festival.

    inadvertently, these five punk rock aesthetes and multi-tasking shit-stirrers caused a shift amongst bands and commentators about what rock could be, what rock could do. mogwai proved to the slower-witted, that rock need not be a constricting doctrine. instead, it was revealed as a license to explore an infinite library of possibilities, a kind of music, which always benefits from being stretched, challenged, subverted, reinvented. which brings us, of course, to the new mogwai album.

    the fourth mogwai album, or the seventh if you count one remix thing ('kicking a dead pig, 1998) and two exceptional singles collections ('ten rapid', 1997, and 'ep+6', 2001). this one is called 'happy songs for happy people', a nice name for a summer record whose song titles allude to paranoia, vague threats, the bible, boundless horrors and '80s hair metal. it sounds, glibly, like a mogwai album, or at least like a band who have such a confident and accomplished understanding of what they want their music to be that all the old influences and comparisons seem more redundant now than ever before. it also sounds precisely nothing like the prevailing musical fashions of 2003 - which renews mogwai's outsider gang status, railing against the heathens and in a position of adversity which undoubtedly suits the contrary bastards.

    'happy songs for happy people' is compact - just over 40 minutes - and extraordinarily skilful at sucking you in. the big crescendos don't come after long passages of quiet, they grow organically and stealthily. the metal power, the hardcore methodology, the pastoral prettiness are hard to separate any more. rather, they exist in a state of grace that's moving and inspiring and all those other vague emotions music regularly promises, but rarely delivers. 'happy songs for happy people' is released on june 9th. in a not unconnected development, mogwai will be playing live shows in the next few months.

    review scans




    rock sound

    the times

    the sunday times


    the fly

    review links

  • playlouder
    (five candles)
  • de:bug
  • no ripchord
  • san francisco bay guardian
    reviewed (favourably) alongside radiohead's 'hail to the thief'
  • pitchforkmedia
    rating: 7.1
  • allmusic
    4 stars
  • pixelsurgeon
  • the onion

    review from 'the independent' by tim perry

    this spiky scottish post-rock five-piece have, for the most part, retired their pedal effects and super-loud amps for mellower tunes. unusually, for them, they cover nine songs in forty two minutes, and the results do sacrifice some of their epic qualities. still, there is powerful soundscaping going on here.

    (3 stars)

    review from 'jockey slut' by paul mardles

    noise and melody need not be mutually exclusive. like those masters of extremes my bloody valentine, glasgow's mogwai forge the sort of gentle-loud hybrid that encourages journalism's more pretentious members to bring their profession into disrepute by dishing out doggerel like 'cathedrals of sound'. this, their fourth album, will prompt more of the same, combining as it does cacophonous feedback and the sort of calm that suggests they're buddhists in denial. only on occasion, though, does 'happy songs..' erupt, the magnificent 'hunted by a freak' and the unearthly 'killing all the flies' possesing an intensity that the remaining numbers lack. fans of arch glaswegian wit will love the song titles - 'i know you are but what am i?', 'stop coming to my house', 'boring machines disturbs sleep' - but musically, regrettably, this simmers where it should boil. 'happy songs..' may make you smile but it won't change your world.


    review from norman records, leeds

    post rock monsters mogwai return with a new album. i think this is their best effort for quite a while. the first track is just amazing with guitars chiming like church bells. they always hit the obligatory 'noisy bit' where sometimes you wish they'd keep quiet and explore different textures but... oh well. they've always done this kind of thing better than everyone else and long may that continue.

    review from 'the daily telegraph' by james delingpole, 22nd june 2003

    i don't think they really mean the title - not with all the sepulchral organs, droning guitars and wailing cellos, nor yet with songs named things like 'killing all the flies' and 'kids will be skeletons'. even so, for those days when you want to pretend you've taken hemlock and gaze wistfully from a cold window seat onto some rain-washed horizon, the scottish miserablists' latest could prove just the cheery little accompaniment you need. and hey, the sly melodies are often very pretty and it's no more depressing than the cure or spiritualised, both of which it resembles in places. everyone makes a huge fuss of canada's godspeed you black emperor, but i reckon in a doomy, epic, cerebral, instrumental rock contest our boys mogwai would match them punch for punch. in fact mogwai would win.

    review from vice magazine, by jess anything

    mogwai are amazing live but their records are a bit flat for my taste. like when they got in the studio they were scared of all the computers and buttons and felt they had to be on their best behaviour or something. i remember seeing them once at glastonbury and watching this guy in front of me tripping on acid, dancing around like a bad ballerina to all the pretty parts. when they ended their set on that big blast of noise and sub-bass and crashing and screaming, the guy who was tripping started crying and grabbed his head and assumed the foetal position in all this mud and piss and beer. anyway, this is the best mogwai record yet.

    review from 'the independent review', 13th june 2003

    the title is as leadenly ironic as that of mogwai's 2001 album "rock action", this latest collection being about as happy as its predecessor was rock - which is to say, not very. instead mogwai continue to mine the territory of late-eighties shoegazer bands, slowly building up layers of repetitive guitar arpeggios and e-bow drones in a style similar to spiritualized, if not quite as opiated and heavy. it's essentially instrumental music: such vocals as are present are vocodered well beyond the point of comprehension, leaving just the implication of language without imposing any semantic demands on the music, which plods on regardless.

    the results can be sporadically beautiful, as with "golden porsche" and the concluding "stop coming to my house", one of the few pieces here that builds to a genuinely moving climax; but they can also be teeth-grindingly dull, as in, for instance, "i know you are but what am i?", five minutes of funereal piano chords, glockenspiel highlights and reversed drums. the longest piece is the eight-minute "ratts of the capital", whose guitar dymanics resemble a restrained version of the byrds' raga-rock sound. it eventually builds into full-blown psychedelic heavy rock, but the track's length accentuates the sense of stasis in the music, which derives from mogwai's decision to grow tracks through accretion rather than extension.

    instead of developing their riffs into longer melodies, they simply take the initial guitar figure and add further layers of counterpoint over it. it leaves the impression of having undertaken an epic journey, without actually travelling far from where it started out.

    review from 'the guardian' by dave peschek, 13th june 2003

    instrumental post-rock has become a tedious cul-de-sac populated by listless bands who think that noodling guitar lines, a scrape of cello and a handful of sombre chords convey crushing import.

    mogwai's painfully marvellous 2001 lp, rock action, proved that the lairy scots were head and shoulders above their peers, co-opting deceptively sweet melodies, corralling guest vocalists and confining the whole thing to a perfectly judged 39 minutes. if anything, happy songs for happy people is even sweeter, a trove of tunefulness that sometimes lulls and sometimes overwhelms.

    often the trick, as on ratts of the capital, is to gradually transpose an almost folky gentleness into a pummelling wall of guitar; in its ebb and flow, happy songs for happy people is consistently hypnotic.

    it's not a little nostalgic, too: the lovely melody that emerges halfway through kids will be skeletons is new order via the cure's disentegration, while stop coming to my house recalls my bloody valentine. occasionally muffled vocals whisper through the noise; if they know the secrets of this majestic music, they're not telling.

    (4 stars)

    review from 'nme' by tim jonze

    when mogwai were first dragged kicking and screaming onto the music scene, people feared them for their eardrum-shredding bursts of noise. recent rumours, however, have suggested a 'quieter, electronic direction'. this usually means that your favourite noise-wielders have lost their edge, going cold turkey in the tunes department while journalists reacquaint themselves with complex adjectives such as 'cerebral', 'challenging' and 'dogshit'.

    so, is this fourth lp really the sound of the scottish sound-sculptors going soft on us? hardly. 'happy...' is filled with paranoid song titles and a defiant refusal to compromise artistically. it tweaks the hushed blueprint of 2001's 'rock action' lp and the result is their most intriguing, beautiful and dazzling record to date. 'kids will be skeletons' is a good indication of where their post-rockin' heads are at. melodies weave around a brewing fuzz-storm whilst chords collide and the whole thing slips in and out of consciousness like slint having a rather nice wet dream. elsewhere, 'hunted by a freak' and 'killing all the flies' weld lush electronic passages onto spiraling guitars whereas 'i know you are but what am i?' sees digital beats cascading around lonely piano stabs.

    it's often complex, but this isn't over-studied music that appeals only to people with a phd in beards. mogwai aren't the sort of band to harp on about how they achieved a neat atonal effect by restringing their guitars with jim o'rourke's pubic hair. in fact, their melodies are often as simple as nursery rhymes because this what works best emotionally. even when they do rock out and bully the fx pedal marked 'jesuschristthathurts', the sonic peaks are woven into the fabric of the music rather than left to leap out at you.

    by the time 'stop coming to my house' erupts, like sigur ros being buried beneath their own iceberg, you realise that mogwai are special. they have that ability to experiment wilfully, yet still appeal to an audience beyond three beret-wearing twats down in hoxton. most importantly, they're still striving to recreate the beautiful sounds that bounce around their brains. and until they really do mellow out and release their 'blur: aren't actually that bad after all' clothing range, we're in for an increasingly thrilling ride.


    review from 'the daily telegraph' by david cheal

    the masters of the savage crescendo are beginning to show signs of, if not mellowness, then a tempering of their extremes. the previous three albums by these bug-eyed scots have featured some of the most awesome pieces of instrumental rock ever recorded, almost every song building from sparse, delicately plucked beginnings into a crushing slab of heaviosity, plunging the listener into an emotional maelstrom before drifting back into calmer waters.

    their latest collection is, in comparison, something of a low-key exercise; only a couple of times, most noticably on the epic ratts of the capital, do they do the hammer-and-tongs thing. mostly, they're positively restrained, confining themselves to sparkling little instrumental pieces that are almost classical in character and structure, an impression reinforced by the use of a small string section.

    human voices are, as always, barely present, and when used, are heavily treated and barely distinguishable from the guitars. this is pure music, unsullied by the presence of such mundane distractions as lyrics. it's also dirty, brutal, shimmering, and exquisitely beautiful.

    review from aquarius records, san francisco

    i haven't really been all that moved by mogwai since they basically reinvented indie rock / post rock years ago with their seminal 'young team' record. on 'young team', mogwai took the loud/quiet dynamics of slint and added a my bloody valentine wall of guitars and the results were nothing short of breathtaking. millions of bands who were already trying to sound like slint now had a new, even less attainable goal. the two records after 'young team', 'rock action' and 'come on die young', were okay, just not as inspired sounding, especially with all of us comparing them to their mighty breakthrough yt. so it's really exciting that this new record is so great! and it sounds totally fresh, even though the sound is so reminiscent of eighties college radio indie rock! the dynamics are gone now (although the tattered remains of their loud/soft past surface once in a while), not surprisingly. mogwai had obviously been slowly shuffling down some sort of entropic path, not knowing where they'd end up and sort of feeling their way tentatively. happy songs is like that, meandering, filled with tension and emotion, that slowly disipates as the songs wind down and run their course. shimmery and shuffling and summery and hypnotic. sinister, but only slightly so. smoky and loping, propulsive but only lazily so. there is an urgency, but it is displayed in mogwai's restraint now, instead of the more obvious bombast of their early years. galaxie 500 is the band that comes to mind most, especially when there are vocals, heavily reverbed, over ultra simple guitar lines, achingly plaintive lyrics, and simple spare rhythms. codeine and slint are other obvious comparisons. as is godspeed (with all the random samples). lugubrious and glacial, lazy and hazy, the perfect wandering the streets on a sweltering summer night music, or driving aimlessly sad and confused music, all minor key and melancholy but with a weird sort of hopefulness under the surface.

    review from 'dot music' by chris nye-browne

    mogwai's brooding post-rock provided the perfect antithesis to britpop back in 1996. getting 'serious' with guitars came as a welcome relief to the jocular self-indulgence that marked the close of the era.

    it might seem ironic then that the scottish five-piece have entitled their fourth album 'happy songs for happy people'. don't worry, the paranoid lashings of eerie and tumultuous guitars are still in place, it's just that the tunes want to warm and soothe rather than throw tantrums. gone is the insistence to mark every song with quiet-to-loud bursts, to be replaced by organically grown anthems.

    coming in at a concise 40 minutes, the whole record is best described as a thing of aching beauty. mogwai have clearly learnt that the wonderful collage of sounds they interweave can compute equally well into four-minute pop songs just as well as endless sprawling epics. what really makes this record engaging is that the simmering tension often chooses not to explode, yet somehow it works. 'i know you are but what am i?' is a case in point, a lonesome piano meets a static drumbeat, looks for relief, but backs away at the last minute. it's clever, simplistic and wonderfully controlled all at the same time.

    a similar trick is repeated on the haunting opener 'hunted by a freak', in which hushed vocals struggle against trilling guitars and chilling feedback to make the listener feel that they are, er, being hunted by a freak. occasionally they really do let go, as on the eight-minute climactic 'ratts of the capital', where mogwai find a happy medium between the building noise avalanche of godspeed! you black emperor and the lush soundscapes of sigur ros. however, standout track is perhaps the slow burn tingle of 'kids will be skeletons'. emotionally heavy, it's the perfect post-club comedown music, gently willing you to sleep.

    despite the multifarious sounds and orchestral arrangements, the music on 'happy songs for happy people' feels easy, due to mogwai's acute grasp of melody. unlike many of their post-rock contemporaries, their poised compositions are capable of attracting more than a handful of post-rock aficionados. just don't expect them to be surging up the singles chart any time soon. they're much too good for that.


    review from

    brilliant new album from mogwai, their most accomplished set to date that will appeal to fans of state river widening, hood and chicago's post-rock scene. gone are the stop-start-quiet-loud constructions that defined their sound of old, in are beautifully judged arrangements, orchestral sweeps and minimal acoustic explorations that are often profoundly moving. the opening "hunted by a freak" sounds like a track lifted off the new radiohead album, a staggered pace and some treated echoes of vocal enveloping a lush arrangement of strings and ambience, gorgeous stuff. "golden porsche" is a shimmering ripple of a track, lullaby guitars, reverberations and violins coming across like an epic take on the most intimate of subjects. "i know you are...", meanwhile, is simply stunning : a sparse piano arrangement and a broken drum machine operating on the bluest of hues, original and moving to the end. highly recommended.

    review from 'the wire' by edwin pouncey

    glaswegian instrumental rock group mogwai are adept at pasting up pleasant enough musical wallpaper that goes straight up and down without causing offence. stand back and the flowery patterns they carefully piece together from song to song emerge into a whole where you can no longer see the joints between the separate tracks. occasionally a part might peel off to temporarily spoil the effect, and these turn out to be the best bits. unfortunately they happen all too rarely.