ARAB STRAP – ” As Days Get Dark “

Posted: March 5, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been 15 years since Scottish duo Arab Strap released an album — 2005’s The Last Romance — but Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have picked up right where they left off for As Days Get Dark. Quite literally. For a band that traffics in sad, lonely people living mundane lives, it’s almost like you can see the discolored dent in the sofa made by the same characters from their debut single “The First Big Weekend,” who’ve just been sitting there doing nothing for a decade and a half.

Well, almost nothing. Moffat still paints lurid portraits of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, just ones set in neighbourhood pubs, and shitty apartments (sorry, flats) with florescent lighting and drop-ceilings. “It’s about hopelessness and darkness, ” Moffat says. “But in a fun way.” If you know what he means, As Days Get Dark does not disappoint. The scene is set with opening track “The Turning of Our Bones,” a tale of “resurrection and shagging” that is clearly about the band (and also shagging): “I don’t give a fuck about the past, our glory days gone by / all I care about right now is that wee mole inside your thigh.” Moffat’s voice has dropped an octave in the last 15 years, and his thick accented delivery, somewhere between a growl and a whisper, is in full sex machine mode, set against a sleek, sultry mix of drum machines, synths and dark guitar lines.

Moffat and Middleton, working with regular collaborator Paul Savage, luxuriate in this mode for much of As Days Get Dark, making one of their richest sounding records, and bringing a lush faded glamour to these stories about “what people turn to in times of need, and how they can hide in the night.” Nowhere is this theme more apparent than on “Another Clockwork Day” where a man staves off boredom by masturbating while his partner sleeps — he’s given up on porn, though, and has turned to “folders within folders” of unnamed digital photos from their past. Depressing, yes, as he flips through IMGs, but the song also manages to push complex nostalgia buttons too.

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Another vivid highlight is “Kebabylon,” with sweeping strings and soaring saxophones, that makes obvious but effective metaphors out of a late-night street-sweeper crew cleaning the gutters of a bar-crowded neighbourhood: “And you’re already dreaming as I claw up your condom, as your syringe cracks underneath my boot / you’ve crashed on the couch, passed out on the porch, such a lover, such a liar, such a brute.” Also great: “Here Comes Comus!” prowls like peak Sisters of Mercy (big gloomy guitars, bigger drum machines) as Moffat faces “nocturnal excess and my inability to ever refuse him”; and “Fable of the Urban Fox” that shines a light on the racist treatment of immigrants against backing that somehow successfully splits the difference between celtic folk and funky disco.

his is an older, wiser and more weary Arab Strap. There are still rough edges, seedy corners and shocking words, but Moffat and Middleton are more comfortable in their skin and still have something to say. As Days Get Dark is not just a skillful return, it’s also one of their best-ever records.

It’s about hopelessness and darkness,” says Aidan Moffat. “But in a fun way.” Arab Strap are back!

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