PIAS - 2003 - 41 minutes

During an interview in 1999, Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite said that the reason the band came up with such good record titles (previously they've had 'Kicking a Dead Pig', 'Come on Die Young' and 'Travels in Constants') was due to their name being so bad. Whatever his misgivings were then, Braithwaite should have none of them now because the concept of a creature that can be either tender or vicious perfectly captures what Mogwai have created on their majestic fourth album.

Focusing more on instrumentals than 2001's 'Rock Action', Mogwai's quiet-loud axis has never sounded more moving or threatening with album centrepieces 'Kids Will Be Skeletons' and 'Ratts of the Capital' building to a ferocity that outroars anything else they've unleashed.

Mellow or malicious, none of the tracks on 'Happy Songs...' should ever make it on to a homemade compilation because this album deserves to live in its own space and only be listened to straight through - again and again. They'd probably fire off some of their Glaswegian wit for you saying it, but Mogwai should really find an orchestra willing to learn these songs, the grace and power they achieve mean that this isn't just an album for people who like guitars.

In 1991 Slint released an album called 'Spiderland' and since then band after band, year after year have spent their time looking up and wondering could they ever climb as high as the Kentucky quartet's masterpiece. With the nine tracks here, Mogwai are gazing down on the top rung of the ladder.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Hunted By a Freak – Moses I Amn't – Kids Will Be Skeletons – Killing All the Flies – Boring Machines Distrubs Sleep – Ratts of the Capital – Golden Porsche – I Know You Are But What Am I? – Stop Coming to My House