Arab Strap: As Days Get Dark (Rock Action) - review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, September 18th, 2021  

Arab Strap

As Days Get Dark

Rock Action

Mar 04, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


There was a poetic arc to Arab Strap’s initial run from “The First Big Weekend” to The Last Romance—“Ten Years of Tears,” as the Scottish duo clocked it. Any creative reunion of Aidan Moffat (vocals, drum machine) and Malcom Middleton (guitar, other instruments) after 15 years would demand weight, and the gravity of the moment was met with “The Turning of Our Bones” when it dropped at the end of last summer. In a storm of delightfully grotesque imagery, Arab Strap were resurrected by a dance of undead love.

Neither Moffat nor Middleton have been missing all this time, and As Days Get Dark doesn’t rehash what has been done or resist what hasn’t. After the split, Moffat picked up under the name L. Pierre and branched out from there (his Here Lies the Body with RM Hubbert from 2018 is exceptional), while Middleton has stayed similarly active under his own name and Human Don’t Be Angry. It’s inevitable that the two of them today would be “older and wiser,” as they acknowledge, but that comes through in mortality-tinged lyrics and refined melodic decisions, not weariness or reserve. As Days Get Dark does not lack for vigor or vulnerability, awkward honesty, or an unblinking eye.

Lust has not left Arab Strap in the least, though here the heated jealousies and drunken dramas of one’s sexual prime have settled down some as attentions spiral around muddled transgressions and modest kinks. The softly spoken and oddly heartening “Another Clockwork Day” finds a middle-aged man, dismayed by the degenerate details of modern online pornography, turning to old personal photos of his partner while she sleeps in their bedroom. “Compersion Pt. 1” and “I Was Once a Weak Man” paint throbbing pictures of strange rooms and strange trysts in autumn shades. In his vivid and seedy scenes, Moffat offers broader questions: Do we carry on doing the things we do because we enjoy them or because they are habits? How do you make passion stay?

As Days Get Dark does not have a mere one-track mind. “Fable of the Urban Fox” is an articulate illustration of the immigrant’s plight in the face of increasing xenophobia. “Tears on Tour” is narrated by a protagonist who cries at everything and once had dreams of becoming “the opposite of a comedian” who travels the country delivering sad monologues on stage and selling “souvenir handkerchiefs embroidered with tour dates available at the foyer after the show”—a parallel universe version of Arab Strap, perhaps. “Sleeper” reimagines a journey toward the afterlife in the club car of an overnight train.

To date there has been no consummate Arab Strap album. If anything, their 1999 live record Mad for Sadness comes close, but that was released before half of their career and many of their finest moments, from “Cherubs” to “Turbulence” to “Dream Sequence.” As Days Get Dark carries on their traditions of intimate ambience and tug-of-war technique, but commendably, it doesn’t seek to summarize so much as add to their inimitable story. (www.arabstrap.scot)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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