I Love Arab Strap.
I love their melancholic grumblings, i love that all their songs have the same drum beat and I love Aiden Moffat's beard. Their songs are a deconstruction of modern life, a realistic portait of relationships gone wrong because of paranoia and nights out gone awry. They make it OK to be inadequate and worry about how much you drink, how shit you are in bed and why you can't seem to get out of your rut. Arab Strap's early albums (The Week Never Starts Round Here and Philophobia) are a reflection of Blairite Britain, about nighttime hedonism and the eventual comedown of waking up. There's songs about after school fumblings, big weekends at indie discos and lots and lots of songs about sex and cheating. I often found myself at odds with Moffats preocupation with sex and the promiscuity of women but have learnt to understand the reasoning behind it. I have learnt to treat his meandering tales of sex, cheating and male paranoia in the same way as I treat French fluo popsters The Teenagers' Gainsbourg-esque portaits of dirty Parisian sex. Both bands use these themes as a diluted dissection of modern romance, woman reduced to cunt, man reduced to cock. Its not portraying women as promiscuous, but men as paranoid, fragile and obsessed with the seedier side of female sexuality.
'How am I supposed to walk you home when you're at least fifty feet ahead? Cos you walked off in a huff and I'm that pissed I can't remember what it was I said. And I don't doubt you wouldn't touch him now. But let's face it, you always used to go for that kind.' ('Here We Go' from Philophobia)
Musically these early records are quite simple, a basic drum beat with lashings of distortion and intricately beautiful guitar lines weaved over the top by Malcolm Middletons skilled fingers. There's the odd flash of strings and some beautiful harmonising from Jenny Reeve and Stacey Sievewright that lifts the songs beyond this simple structure and gives them an added bit of class. This is used to the greatest effect on 'Afterwards', a tale of the morning after the night before, from both a male and female perpective. Overall these early records are Arab Strap raw and unfiltered, a cascade of filth and bile mixed with the romantisism of the lonely.
As the albums progress we are presented more and more with musings on getting old and feeling out of place (see The Shy Retirer from 2003s Monday At The Hug And Pint), putting behind 'blowhead discos' and just feeling sorry for yourself at home with a drink. Former passtimes eaten up by feeling 'too drunk and getting old', your apetites quenched years before. It's not all wallowng in self pity though as musically these later albums were far more expansive in their sound, a full band set up with beautiful orchestration and piano melodies, much like Malcolm Middleton's own solo records. It was like Arab Strap +. A new bigger, pop version of the little indie band that could.
But these beautiful, lush pieces of music were to be the bands swan song and after ten years of tears the band called it a day. Aidan Moffat going on to form the largelly instrumental Lucky Pierre and Malcolm Middleton finding his voice on this years brilliant A Brighter Beat after releasing two other solo records while still with the Strap.
Consider this a rather lovely musical autopsy of a band who've now gone.
Now here's some videos of my favourite moments...
Well hope you enjoyed them as much as I do. If you want more then buy these records.
The Week Never Starts Round Here (1996)
Mad For Sadness (Live) (1999)
Cherubs EP (1999)
Elephant Shoe (1999)
The Red Thread (2001)
Monday At The Hug And Pint (2003)
The Shy Retirer EP (2003)
The Last Romance (2005)
And for more information and stuff...