A highly anticipated first visit to The Fire Station for Scottish indie rockers Arab Strap.
“As soon as we started this it felt like album two,” says Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap’s 8th LP. “It definitely feels like a fresh start from where we used to be.”
2021’s critically acclaimed top 15 charting album, As Days Get Dark, was Arab Strap’s first album since 2005 and it started them on a new chapter that is now being extended and expanded. “When a lot of bands reform they are too preoccupied with the past and want to try and recapture a sound they used to have,” Moffat says. “Which is impossible, that's not coming back. We're not trying to sound like old Arab Strap. Phase one, if you like, was focused on the ugliness and messiness of romance as a youngster, and that's just not what Arab Strap sings about anymore. It feels like two different bands.”
The first phase of Arab Strap that the band refer to, began all the way back in 1995 when Malcom Middleton and Moffat began collaborating, blending lo-fi, post-rock, and a unique twist on alternative music – combined with Moffat’s deeply personal, romantic and darkly funny lyrics - that quickly positioned them as a band that sounded like no other. John Peel loved them, they had a stint on a major record label and before bowing out in 2006 they released six albums that remain hugely beloved, acclaimed and influential.
However, the opening two tracks to the band’s new album are a fierce testament to their laser focus on the horizon, rather than concerning themselves with what’s over their shoulders. ‘Allatonceness’ charges out of the gate with thumping drums before some of the heaviest riffs ever heard on an Arab Strap record come clattering in. But just when you think the band might be letting a whiff of metal seep into their sound, we move onto ‘Bliss’, which may well be the most explicitly dancey and electronic song the band have ever created.
“The plan initially was to release a bunch of singles rather than an album,” explains Middleton. “So, we started making quite upbeat, catchy and dynamic songs. But then we started adding more different songs and it became an album. It's been over two years working slowly on this one – probably the longest it's taken us to make a record.”
The result is an album that captures that initial spark of writing songs as singles, along with one that had a gestation period to allow a balanced and considered record to evolve. It’s an album loaded with tracks that feel potent and punchy, be it via the upbeat nature of some of the album’s more propulsive musical moments or in the bite of Moffat’s lyrics. “There’s more anger and aggro in the words than the last one,” he says. “It’s not overtly political but it’s certainly a record that is a bit angry at the world.”
Doors: 19:30 (all timings are subject to change) Location: The Auditorium, The Fire Station Tickets: From £16.50 Under 14s must be accompanied by an adult
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