Arab Strap

TrackAlbum / EP / Single
Hey! FeverThe Girls Of Summer EP
Girls Of SummerMad For Sadness
Here We GoPhilophobia
I Would've Liked Me
A Lot Last Night
Philophobia
CherubsElephant Shoe
Turbulence (Bis Remix)Turbulence 12"
Who Named The DaysMonday At The Hug & Pint
There Is No EndingThe Last Romance
The Smell Of Outdoor CookingThe Week Never Starts Round Here
The Holiday Girl
(Don't Die Just Yet)
Go! Beat GOBXPRO 6

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Arab Strap playlist

 

 

Contributor: Paul Jenkins

Arab Strap was a Scottish pop duo consisting of Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat. On the liner notes of their second album Philophobia, they were respectively credited as “most things musical” and “most things not” which does them both a disservice. Far more than each other’s ying and yang, rather they were purveyors of an antidote to the crass romantic platitudes available on 98% of recorded music.

They will never be played on Steve Wright’s “Sunday Love Songs”.

It’s a strange coincidence (and one which I’ve decided to shoehorn into this selection as a means of introducing each song) that the recording career of Arab Strap coincided pretty neatly with the recording of the inexplicably popular sitcom “Friends”. Where Chandler, Rachel and co flitted in and out of each other’s lives and beds with barely a hint of catharsis or regret, Arab Strap soundtracked a world which we could all recognise, a world of drunken conquests, comedown sex, accusation and infatuation.

 

THE ONE THAT MADE ME FALL IN LOVE WITH ARAB STRAP

A John Peel show, 1997. A track called Hey! Fever. A tale of unrequited love but one which, unique in the pop canon, seemed to linger on the vulnerabilities revealed in the male grooming technique. “I had a quick tug so that it would last longer … I used my best shampoo on my pubes just in case”. The music was a kind of lo-fi fairground hip hop, capturing the dizzy essence of falling in and out of love with its woozy funfair organ and almost incidental beats. Not to mention a choir of gay Scotsmen providing sterling accompaniment.

THE ONE THAT ENDED UP ON EVERY COMPILATION TAPE I EVER MADE FROM THEN ON

I went to Spillers soon after to buy The Girls Of Summer EP from which Hey! Fever was taken. The title track floored me. One of those moments you never forget. Like when the needle hit the groove of Doolittle and that bass line introduces Debaser and you find yourself spinning round your teenage bedroom in delight. Or the first time you hear Beyonce’s Crazy In Love and you forget where you are and you are almost tempted to have a kids in Fame moment and leap out into the M4.

Girls Of Summer builds from a brooding guitar intro into the kind of mesh of happy hardcore and indie pop thrills that you thought was the territory of Super Furry Animals. All whilst Aidan narrates a tale of almost pointless hedonism with the world weary ennui of someone resigned to doing this every weekend that summer. It’s weltschmertz gone disco and reduced me to saying “Look, even the drums are sad” to a friend I was trying to convert to the Strap’s way of thinking.

I haven’t included that version, fine and glorious that it is. The live version still leaves me giddy and jaw-floored. Imagine seeing this at a festival where you’ve gone to lose your mind and perhaps your cherry.

THE ONE THAT SAID FAR TOO MUCH ABOUT MY LIFE (part 1)

I was in a relationship for most of the 1990s with a girl who was lovely, clever, charming and pretty much perfect relationship material. It made me miserable and resentful. Arab Strap seemed to document our every row, my every indiscretion and the torment of feeling conflicted between domestic bliss and wild uninhibited fun.

When I took Arab Strap’s second album Philophobia home I felt like someone had been listening to my every waking thought and decided to set it to music. A feeling I hadn’t had since hearing the theme to “Rainbow”. Here We Go is exquisite; a failing relationship just like mine set to a beautiful guitar and stuttering drum machine. “Am I supposed to walk you home, when you’re at least fifty feet ahead? Because you walked off in a huff, and I’m that pissed, I can’t remember what it was I said.” Who hasn’t been in that relationship?

THE ONE I WANT PLAYED AT MY FUNERAL

I Would’ve Liked Me A Lot Last Night is even better – a mournful piano and drum led elegy for a heroic night on drugs our hero is unlucky enough not to remember. The hedonism on this album isn’t celebratory or even nihilistic, it’s routine, it’s what young men in small towns in shit relationships do and no one has ever captured it better.

THE ONE THAT YOU’D PUT ON AT 4AM TO COMEDOWN TO AND PROBABLY CRY

Cherubs is what I think Joy Division would have sounded like had Ian Curtis hung around a little bit longer. Not lyrically or vocally especially, just that brooding guitar giving way to those glissando piano runs whilst in the background a dirty beat keeps time with Moffat’s disturbing nocturnal thoughts. Perhaps the most downbeat opener to a Scottish album since The Little Boy Routine on Two Sides Of The Krankies.

THE ONE THAT LCD SOUNDSYSTEM DEFINITELY LISTENED TO

Turbulence takes an extended metaphor about flying and being out of control and sets it to the kind of growling electro pop monster that everyone thought LCD Soundsystem single-handedly invented. The fact that this came because of a remix by irritating adolescent funsters Bis is almost as extraordinary as anything else in pop history.

THE ONE THAT SAID FAR TOO MUCH ABOUT MY LIFE (part 2)

Who Named The Days isn’t about calendars. If it was it would be about a calendar where each month was accompanied by a picture of you gradually succumbing to crystal meth. As painful as anthems of regret come, this came with a melody so sweet you could lose your milk teeth to it.

THE ONE WHERE THEY INVENTED FOLKTRONICA ABOUT 5 YEARS BEFORE ANYONE ELSE

The Smell Of Outdoor Cooking is set at a barbecue. That’s about as pleasant as things get. This is not a song to be sung along to on the iPod. Especially on public transport. But what a tune. Like Ivor Cutler remixed by Caribou. But with rude bits.

THE ONE THAT MIGHT HAVE MADE THE TOP TEN IF IT HADN’T MENTIONED PAEDOPHILES

After ten years of documenting the sordid hell of trying to get off with people you fancied, the sheer desire to make an optimistic pop tune got the better of them at the last. There Is No Ending is a big joyous fanfare – all trumpets and optimism. And if it hadn’t mentioned paedophiles, terrorism and bird flu it might, just might, have got a little bit of daytime rotation, man …

THE ONE THAT ISN’T BY THEM, TECHNICALLY SPEAKING, BUT IT IS

The Holiday Song (Don’t Die Just Yet) is a David Holmes cover of a Serge Gainsbourg song. Who better to combine the loose grooves of the former with the general debauchery of the latter? The Arab Strap remix is proof that the best remixes are the ones the artist gives full rein to the imagination of the remixer. With drum machine set to “DJ Shadow is tired”, Aidan sets about trying to recall a tale of youthful rejection, “it was a royal wedding, I don’t know which one…”, and ends up crying at the sea as strings swell in sympathy.

 

 

Aidan Moffat bandcamp

Malcolm Middleton official website

Arab Strap on Chemikal Underground

Arab Strap biography (iTunes)

Paul Jenkins is a pop music obsessive living in fear of being found out as the owner of two Tight Fit singles. His opinions on life in general can be gleaned from his Twitter account (@fourfoot). He lives in South Wales with his wife, daughter and a collection of Fall gig anecdotes.

TopperPost #505

1 Comment

  1. David Tanner
    Mar 4, 2016

    Excellent post. “Here we go” one of my favourite tracks ever.

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