Monday, May 10, 2010

Album Review: Arab Strap - Philophobia


More tales from the gutter from Falkirk’s finest. The title apparently refers to a fear of loving, and if anything the lyrics on their 2nd album released in 1998 were even more blatant than their debut. Certainly opener Packs of Three’s first line leaves nothing to the imagination, in a sordid tale of infidelity. Which doesn’t exactly differentiate it from the rest of the album.

The album takes in idle afternoons with ‘singer’ Aidan Moffat watching TV (Soaps), drunken tiffs (Here We Go) and more infidelity (New Birds). All of this would be a bit ‘so what’ only for the wonderful music that soundtracks these tales, largely created by Malcolm Middleton’s army of guitar and synths.

Here We Go features a gentle guitar part as Moffat sings “how am I supposed to walk you home when you’re at least 50 feet ahead, cos you walked off in a huff”. It’s a visceral, bitingly real love song with the wonderfully resigned chorus detailing a vicious circle: “here we go, same time, same place, I don’t like the way you kiss his face, it’s not that there’s no trust as such, I’d love to make up but I’ve had too much.”

New Birds if anything is rawer. It details a chance meeting with an ex over a vaguely post-rocky backing, when our protagonist becomes tempted “she says she's been going out with him now for about two and a half years, but they don't live together so he'd never find out”. He is brought to the point of infidelity at the end of the night: “you can see her breath in the air between your faces as you stand in the leaves and she just asks you straight out if you want to come and stay at her flat.” The music dies away leaving merely the bass line… the suspense is awful, like a car crash, but you can’t help wanting to know the outcome. Our hero remains strong and loyal: “but you make sure you get separate taxis and you go home and there might be a slight regret and you might wonder what you missed but you have to remember the kiss you worked so hard on - and you'll know you've done the right thing.” The music then kicks into a fantastic gauzy rock guitar to close out the song.

The album continues in this vein, each song telling fairly dark tales. Getting through a whole album of this can be a bit of a drudge, but at its best it’s pretty vital. Is it poetry or drunken babble? Not sure I know the difference.