fri 17/09/2021

Album: Arab Strap - As Days Get Dark | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Arab Strap - As Days Get Dark

Album: Arab Strap - As Days Get Dark

A welcome musical return from the caustic Scottish duo

Arab Strap, still finding the humanity in debauchery 15 years on

Shortly after Arab Strap split up in 2006, Malcolm Middleton was quoted saying “I don’t think we should ever get back together”. That’s the sort of fighting talk that’s just begging to be cast up by tired old hack music writers tasked with reviewing the inevitable comeback – but the trick, in this case, was that the comeback was never inevitable. The Falkirk duo built a reputation on electro-acoustic songs about drink, drugs and shagging.

Who wouldn’t want to hear how that all turned out?

The album opens with a challenge to the nostalgia-hungry listener, Aidan Moffat disclaiming past glories in his unmistakable baritone over Malcolm Middleton’s doom-laden electronic beat. “All I care about right now is that wee mole inside your thigh”, he says, and from a band best known for committing sordid sexual encounters to tape it’s a come-on. Horror movie musical cues and a blast of woozy saxophone resurrect an old love affair from the metaphorical grave – although nostalgia provides its own rush on follow-up “Another Clockwork Day”, a subtly beautiful, acoustic guitar-driven song about a man eschewing internet pornography for old photographs of his sleeping spouse.

The debauchery is still there but hits differently now, “Kebabylon” and “Here Comes Comus!” cautionary tales from an age where hangovers are measured in days, not hours, and a year since Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street went dark. The former sees the city through the eyes of the early morning road sweeper, downbeat drum loops punctuating darkly poetic lyrics; the latter is a late night horror show dedicated to every night out gone wrong. The accompanying music video, directed by Bryan M. Ferguson and filmed in dark Glasgow streets it’s hard to remember that you miss, comes with a content warning.

But what lingers of the album is not its horrors, but its humanity  reflected, after all, in even the debauched temptations of the god of nighttime revels. “Fable of the Urban Fox” is a thinly-veiled folk-rock parable about immigration, its chorus a call for solidarity that tugs at the dark places of the heart; while “Tears on Tour” is a tender-hearted confessional that rings even more true in Moffat’s gruff Scots. Age makes short emotional work of us all.

Below: hear "The Turning of our Bones" by Arab Strap

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