- Monday at the Hug & Pint - ole-577 - 2003-04-22
- The Red Thread - ole-503 - 2001-02-27
- The Week Never Starts Round Here - ole-294 - 1998-06-23
- Philophobia - ole-315 - 1998-05-19
"but when we attacked, it was never swiftly
we must have been locked in combat for years
our new hardwood floor was the perfect battleground
so I suppose the bullets were our tears"
ACT OF WAR
We need bands like Arab Strap. In these times of production line pop stars and cognate, corporate clones, Aidan and Malcolm’s music remains unique, observant and callously honest. Listening to their material can be both uncomfortably voyeuristic and engagingly provocative in a way that so few of their contemporaries can even hope to approximate. Over the course of the last seven years, Arab Strap have displayed an innate lyrical talent which explores the intimacies and the pathologies of relationships: attraction, lust, jealousy, infidelity, rejection and loss, delivered with brutally stark honesty and set to a soundtrack which elevates their music beyond the miserable to the level of an elegiac lament for loves won and lost.
Monday at the Hug & Pint finds Aidan and Malcolm returning to Arab Strap after their respective sabbaticals with Lucky Pierre and Malcolm’s solo album. Bolstered by the full time involvement of Stacey Sievwright and Jenny Reeve on violin and cello the album navigates a journey which many of us have travelled: there are highs and lows; dark nights and false dawns; getting fucked with your friends and feeling fucked on your own; an album of love, loss, depression and hope; more musically diverse and schizophrenic than anything they had done before. As with many albums though, the real bastard was finding a title and there were many contenders: How Not To Meet People; The Cunted Circus; Loop; all relevant in their own way but never quite suitable – if the tales contained within the album were to be given an appropriate context it might as well be a pub. The Hug & Pint.
The best pubs, as you all know, are populated with all manner of life: the loud-mouthed optimist and the silent brooder; scrums of friends and pockets of loners; the buoyant and the deflated; the worldly-wise and the wide-eyed innocents. Arab Strap, with this album, have taken enormous leaps in capturing the waves of elation and despondency that accompany us from one night to another. Musically capricious and stylistically indiscriminate, there’s a bold diversity at work here, audacious and self-assured: swirling strings; dance beats; cacophonous distortion and subtle, acoustic arpeggios; sampled bagpipes; lilting piano and doleful trumpets. Joined in the pub by Conor and Mike from Bright Eyes, Bill Wells from the Bill Wells Trio, Barry Burns from Mogwai, and Jenny and Stacey, Arab Strap steer us through club disco, piano ballads, pitch-black, spiteful guitars, wistful Scottish folk and glassy-eyed bar-room sing-a-longs in a seamless 46 minutes, full of musical quirks and shot through with an individuality that is truly unique.
The real magic of Arab Strap can be found in the reliance between Aidan’s lyrics and Malcolm’s musical vision: one enhances the other and if the music on Monday at the Hug & Pint is fearless and evocative, it simply transports the lyrics to another level. Aidan’s lyrics go far beyond that of alcohol-soaked contrition: it’s the attention to detail, the insight and the honesty to articulate emotions and incidents that we can all relate to but rarely mention in public. Sophic prose for the post-club comedown, the art lies in the commonplace and no-one expresses our frailties and vices more eloquently or bluntly than Mr. Moffat.
For those of us who have lived any kind of life with all its attendant regrets, joys and embarrassments, Monday at the Hug & Pint is a companion to be cherished. Proof that you are not alone and that we all share the same inadequacies and hopes for the future. If the Hug & Pint does exist, I’ll bet the toilets stink but the beer’s fantastic and it’s only £1.50 a pint.
|The Red Thread
February 27, 2001
From ancient Eastern theology comes the belief that there is an invisible red thread that links soulmates through time. From Arab Strap comes The Red Thread, their finest work to date.
The Red Thread recaptures the strength of Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat’s songwriting. Back on Chemikal Underground (and Matador) following an abortive two-album stint on Go! Beat (reissued in the US on Jetset), the two have stripped everything to the bare bones; both lyrics and the tunes cut a deep red swathe through the heart.
"Amor Veneris" sets the tone. "It’s best in the morning when we know it won’t be rushed," and so it is with this record. Written, recorded and produced by Middleton and Moffat in, it’s Arab Strap in majestic form. This is so much more than songs about fucking. Aidan Moffatt has become one of the keenest storytellers in music, and his instrumental accompaniment is as beautifully detailed as his narratives. The Red Thread is not for the weak willed or the faint of heart. Give a little and get a lot. Open your heart and let love in.
The seeds of discontent and misanthropy were sewn five years ago. At the time Aidan Moffat (singer and bon viveur) and Malcolm Middleton (guitar and quiet introspection) were barely acquainted. Both were in separate bands in Falkirk an unremarkable town lying between metropolitan Glasgow and erudite Edinburgh. Chance and the love of one woman brought them together.
At Moffat’s suggestion they named the band Arab Strap, after a sexual device that caught his interest in the gentlemen’s magazines he read as a boy. Their debut single "The First Big Weekend" was released in September 1996. Aidan’s delivery was spoken and distinctly Scottish; the song told of Moffat and Middleton’s antics over the weekend that saw Scotland dismissed from Euro ’96. It became an anthem for those who liked a drink, a dance and a pill or two.
The debut album The Week Never Starts Round Here was a dark and claustrophobic affair. It offered little in the way of comfort, for Arab Strap preferred to tell of the rancor and pain of a failed relationship, the sweat and smell of dirty sex, the shit jobs and shit wages they took and their love of Kate Moss. Middleton fashioned a bleak, brooding soundtrack to these tales.
Live appearances at this time had become somewhat notorious. Arab Strap were volatile and venomous, with increased technical problems and tantrums. David Gow (drums) and Gary Miller (bass) were called upon not only to keep time but also to keep order. The willful excesses of Middleton and Moffat were proving too much for only but the brave. Arab Strap were falling apart for their art.
The summer of ’97 was a time to regroup their strengths. Both shared a passion for hard dance tunes as well as the melancholic sounds of Smog and the Palace Brothers. That summer they learnt to fuse the two. Philophobia cast a much wider net both musically and lyrically. Moffat bared his soul; Malcolm crafted beautiful guitar motifs. The title meant not just the fear of love but the fear of falling in love. Philophobia was released in April ’98 (Matador released it and its predecessor the same year) and entered the UK Top 40.
An astonishing appearance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, following their first American tour, demonstrated how much they had developed as a band; the gig was recorded and later released on the LP Mad For Sadness. The languid and shimmering strings together with the booming beats were pushed to the fore.
With their rise to prominence new paymasters came knocking. Many were forced to beat a hasty retreat from Scotland having met Middleton and Moffat. The people at Go! Beat were not to be dissuaded. The band signed a deal that gave them some financial security, but most importantly 100% artistic control. And this is where the problems began.
Go! Beat didn’t imagine that Elephant Shoe would be their most willfully difficult record. The label wanted hit singles, Arab Strap wanted to make art. It received much acclaim, but the price was high. Go! Beat insisted future releases be mollified for the marketplace. Arab Strap’s response was a curt "Fuck You" and off they went, though not before Go! Beat tried to impose a gag order.
The ideal of big money and artistic purity was not to be. The band returned to Chemikal Underground (Matador in the US), labels that understood them and accepted their wanton ways (and whose records proved more successful commercially). The Red Thread is also the first Arab Strap album released simultaneously in the US and UK. It will be followed by their first extensive tour of North America.
May 19, 1998
Arab Strap were formed by longtime pals Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton in the summer of ’95 in Falkirk, Scotland. They are true troubadours, telling the tale as they live it. They have been arrested together, fought together, and together have created some of the most stark, poignant and relevant music of the 90s. Their debut single “The First Big Weekend” was released to an unparalleled response from Radio One’s Evening Session and led presenter Steve Lamacq to call it the best record of the decade. The song received much airplay in Britain and became an anthem for part-time “E” casualties. It has recently become the backing music for the current British Guinness commercial.
From this platform the album The Week Never Starts Round Here was released at the close of ’96, garnering more radio play for the band, and enthusiastic press response. The magazine Blah Blah Blah said that “this is the first British album to successfully capture that thrilling sense of disenfranchised privacy that has previously been the province of mystical Americans like Smog and Slint.” The Independent said that “Arab Strap prove to be the most incendiary live band in the country, interspersing caustic vignettes of romantic disillusionment with bursts of energy the likes of which no British band has achieved since Joy Division.” Arab Strapwent on to release the Girls Of Summer EP in fall ’97, and recently broke the UK charts with their re-working of David Holmes’ “Don’t Die Just Yet,” entitled “Holiday Girl.”
Philophobia is Arab Strap’s second album, and their first US release. Recorded in Scotland and bearing that legend L.O.V.E./H.A.T.E., Philophobia comes on strong like Bukowski on Buckfast. Arab Strap have created perfect music to accompany the post-rave comedown.
Philophobia sidesteps the mainstream, gives short shrift to the high-brow, and “celebrates” the everyday. Truly beautiful and truly sad. Thirteen songs that recount tales of love gone wrong, narratives of spite and vengeance — fear not, there are moments of humor — all set to the most unadorned and breathtaking of arrangements.
02/03/03— The new album
Coming in April, the new Arab Strap CD/LP, 'Mondays At The Hug & Pint'.
The 5th studio album from the Glaswegian duo of Aidan Moffat and Malcom Middleton might be the most ambitious and bracing of their brief, action-packed career. While not entirely departing from Arab Strap's tried & tested equation of relationship-autopsies set to a disco beat, 'Mondays...' is so brutally focused, both lyrically and musically, that this might as well be the band's first album (and we mean that in a good way). Both principals seem revitalized following their recent solo forays and if this isn't an early contender for the Best Album of 2003, that's only because competition between artists is so terribly wrong (just ask Marlon Brando). On tour this April with Bright Eyes.
track listing :
The Shy Retirer
Meanwhile, At The Bar, A Drunkard Muses
Fucking Little Bastards
Who Named The Days?
Loch Leven intro
Act of War
The Week Never Starts Round Here
02/06/01 — Arab Strap — All of their songs are love songs. Sort of.
“Love Detective,” the new single (in the UK at least) from the forthcoming Arab Strap album ‘The Red Thread,’ is available fordownload starting Tuesday, February 6th. The band are about to begin a brief UK tour, and with any luck, we’ll have North American dates to announce before long.
12/06/00 — Arab Strap — Welcome back
Thanks to a lovely licensing arrangement we’ve made with the smart & talented crew at Chemikal Underground Recordings of Glasgow, Arab Strap will once again be releasing new records on the Matador label in North America. The 4th Arab Strap album, not counting the ‘Mad For Sadness’ live thing that someone else put out, ‘The Red Thread’ on February 27. When we call this album the most intense, soul-stirring work of the band’s career, we in no way wish to disparage their previous albums or the men and women whose lives are discussed on them. When we have full track listings, samples of the art work and news about US dates... well, that probably means we’ll have read them somewhere else. But we are not above cutting and pasting, oh no.
06/06/00 — Ex-Matador band in multiple label switcheroo shocker
In addition to releasing the (old) new Arab Strap record (‘Elephant Shoe’) in North America on June 6th, Jetset is also releasing the live record that proceeded it, ‘Mad For Sadness,’ on July 4th. If that wasn’t thrilling enough, Arab Strap have returned to the label that brought them to worldwide prominence, Chemikal Underground, which is very happy news. That’s what they call “dancing with who brung ya,” though chances are no one was dancing.
04/18/98 — The new Arab Strap album, Philophobia is has heads turning. Our source at Chemikal Underground (Arab Strap's UK label) informs us that the record is #26 is the UK charts and getting massive press... not to mention stuff like this:
Daily Record, 4/20/98
SCOTLAND'S newest cult pop stars have been disowned by their home town after branding it rundown and boring.
Falkirk folk are also angry that Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton - alias the group Arab Strap - depict them as violent alcoholics and drug addicts.
Both were born in the town, attended Falkirk High and supported the local football club.
Their lyrics portray the town as lifeless and dull and its townspeople as alcoholics and drug takers whose main pastimes are fighting and casual sex.
Their attacks on their home town have provoked outrage.
Provost Alex Fowler said, "These people are a disgrace to Falkirk and everything they say about our town is wrong."
The remarks have also sparked a backlash against their music among local youngsters.
Avril Denholm, 16, said: "Falkirk is a good place. The nightlife is good and there is no problem with drugs or fighting."