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Arab Strap: As Days Get Dark review – less callow, more crafted

Kitty Empire
·1-min read

For anyone not yet acquainted with the caustic charms of Arab Strap, their first album in 16 years makes an excellent primer. Coming on like a union between Sleaford Mods and Leonard Cohen consummated in a Glasgow pub toilet, As Days Get Dark serves up bleakness and gallows humour multiple ways: “dejected, deserted and drunk”.

The callowness of the pair’s 90s youth – they were named after a sex toy – has been replaced by something altogether more lived-in and existential. The Turning of Our Bones exhorts listeners to seize the sexual day, because to dust we shall return. I Was Once a Weak Man is a prize-winning short story in miniature, following the stealth moves of a veteran adulterer.

Key to it all is intoner Aidan Moffat – “singer” would be pushing it. On Tears on Tour, he confesses to aspiring to be “the opposite of a comedian”, touring small venues with his tales of woe, his merch stall selling handkerchiefs embroidered with tour dates. Indispensable, too, is Malcolm Middleton, who supplies musical raw material that he and Moffat work into oxymoronic excellence – cheap, tinny beats and thousand-yard-stare guitars, elevated by strings and saxophone.