As Days Get Dark by Arab Strap album review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions

Rock Action Records

7

Arab Strap

As Days Get Dark

“I don’t give a fuck about the past/the glory days gone by”. Clearly Arab Strap aren’t at all fazed that they’re releasing an album after a 16 year hiatus. These are the first words uttered by Aidan Moffat, in his thick, half- sung-half-spoken Scottish brogue as a menacing air introduces ‘The Turning of our Bones’, the opening track on ‘As Days Get Dark’.

According to the two-piece (Arab Strap is a partnership between Moffat and Malcolm Middleton) this record has come together much like their previous work “we’re still doing what we always do: Malcolm gives me some guitar parts and then I’ll fuck about with them and put some drum machines and words over the top” remarks the group’s vocalist. Further commenting “it’s about hopelessness and darkness but in a fun way”, which perfectly sums up the LP’s gloomy, sinister air that’s enriched by the occasional flicker of gallows humour and some quintessential Scottish cynicism.

There’s an intensity to ‘As Days Get Dark’ that’s almost tangible; it’s fuelled by Moffat’s murmured delivery and then amplified by the shadowy, sometimes minimal, sometimes noisy sonics, that manifest from subtle guitar lines, beats, saxophone squalls, elegant strings and claustrophobic synths. Whether it’s recounting stories of rotting bodies; the LP’s opener contains the stomach churning line “let’s squeeze the maggots from our flesh/like tiny poison pustules” or detailing the emotional fallout of watching “The Muppet Movie/Frozen/Frozen 2” on ‘Tears on Tour’ which further embellishes on Moffat’s need to let it all out and have a damn good cry from time to time. The album is a multifaceted endeavour when it comes to themes – carrying on from the macabre and the sad-yet-funny, there’s tales of going out on the town; ‘Kebabylon’ combines a tense mix of strings and beats that illuminate the carnage of any Saturday night in the UK, painting the picture of empty takeaway containers strewn across a streetlight lit pavement, as bodies stumble and fall in-front of their friends, with the police watching from a far. ‘Here Comes Comus!’ injects some shadowy guitar to Arab’s Straps brooding cinematics, as a persistent thud charts the tale of a someone who’s “cocksure and vain”, while stating “he’s a walking mistake”. The record also explores more intimate territories, with ‘Another Clockwork Day’ sounding almost medieval, as an isolated acoustic strum recounts the story of someone flicking through JPEGs, reliving memories of days gone by via their laptop, instead of a dusty old photo-album. Despite the tech upgrade, the track maintains the notion of sepia toned nostalgia; a grazed vulnerability flickers through ‘Bluebird’, as clicks and clacks envelope a crystalline guitar trill. Moffat adopts a bruised persona, someone trapped in a spiralling dichotomy “I don’t want your love/I need your love/don’t love me”. A midnight stillness caps off ‘As Days Get Dark’, ‘Just Enough’ is drenched in sorrow, as Moffat announces “if you’re never hurt/you’ll never heal” and “we’ve lost the will to fight”, like a man who’s weighed down by the weight of the world.

‘As Days Get Dark’ is a bleak traversal through human life, documenting its crushing lows and its silly, sometimes whimsical middle ground, but never the highs. It’s not always an easy listen but a rewarding one for anyone lured in by the prospect of “hopelessness and darkness but in a fun way”.

Order As Days Get Dark by Arab Strap HERE