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Happy Music for Happy People (Matador)

Don't be fooled by the cheery album title -- the cheeky Scots in Mogwai are being snarky by saddling their fourth record with a mirthful name. In fact, if the world were to end tomorrow, the nuclear wasteland instrumentals on Happy Music would be the ideal soundtrack for the apocalypse. Vaporous synths, cinema-worthy strings, and chiming guitars swell and bob ominously, like waves in a stormy sea. Aiding their discontent are uneasy flourishes -- unintelligible vocal computerization ("Killing All the Files"), Spacemen 3-like lullaby drones ("Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep"), and a miasma of electronic scratches, Nintendo keyboards, and piano dirges ("I Know You Are But What Am I?").

Curiously, the gale-force feedback roar of earlier albums like Come On Die Young surfaces only occasionally -- most notably on the wind-tunnel crescendos ending "Stop Coming to My House." Nevertheless, the eerie calmness of Happy Music is as unsettling and mesmerizing as Mogwai's raucous past, finding its poison in beauty rather than chaos.


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