I am so relaxed right now.
I just had a nice cup of herbal tea, took a soak in the tub and strapped on my headphones to enjoy Happy Songs for Happy People.
To my surprise, there were tiny space creatures speaking to me while I
listened to the music. I don’t know if the tea was spiked or if they
were hiding in the bathroom fan, but those tiny (the size of a pin, I
tell you!) were telling me some heavy shit. Like a baby being lulled to
sleep by breast, I was sucked in by Mogwai’s shoegazing melodies and
ever-cascading crescendos, all thinned out and smoothed over with
slowly trodding percussion of drummer Martin Bulloch.
And the voices. The voices (channeled through the body of Stuart Braithwaite) told me in an undoubtedly Glaswegian accent things
I shouldn’t have heard, pushed me near the edge of sanity and tried to
coax me into drowning myself in the tub. But I fought them, the little
bastards, and I kept listening. Each new song called to me like sirens
to listen more intently. The guitars — no, make that the guitar noise
— eventually got out of hand, swirling and swaying and drowning out
the voices, to my relief. In fact, all of the noises and thoughts and
even the ability to walk out of the tub and dry myself off had
disappeared. For nearly forty minutes, Braithwaite, Dominic Aitchison
and John Cummings had me trapped in their sonic guitar landscape, and
my skin had shriveled to prune-like proportions.
Finally, the spell subsided at the end of “Golden Porsche,” but it
took seven tracks to get there. They stopped talking to me, those
bastards and their guitars, and allowed me time to climb out of the
water. As if to tease me into jumping back in, the constant piano-key
thumping of “I Know You Are But What Am I?” gave way to more mechanical
noise, increasingly louder until it climaxed and died down once more.
The entire experience of listening to Happy Music for Happy People
is like watching My Bloody Valentine undress. It is exhilarating and
relaxing, loud and quiet, pensive and intense — all at once. Once it
was all over, I wanted to hear it again — this time in a safe place,
like my bed — and each new listen produced new emotions. Mogwai is
expert at transcending the “white noise” music revolutionized in the
’90s by MBV and its guitar virtuoso, Kevin Shields (with whom the band
teamed up to remix 2001’s Rock Action). By the closing track (“Stop Coming to My House”) of Happy Music,
the band’s fourth official release, the irony of that title becomes
evident. There are no happy endings in Mogwai-land, but there is plenty
of really good stuff in the middle. If you don’t count those damn
aliens. Ah, paranoia is a beautiful thing.