Arab Strap – As Days Get Dark
Released March 5th, 2021 on Rock Action Records
This is not a drill: Sixteen years after their last album, fourteen years after breaking up, and eight years after casting doubts on there ever being another Arab Strap album, there is a new Arab Strap album.
From the get-go there is no doubt what other band this could be. “The Turning Of The Bones” starts off building an ominous, looming sound before Aidan Moffat growls “I don’t give a fuck about the past our glory days gone by / All I care about right now is that wee mole inside your thigh” in his signature Scots drawl. The remainder of the album combines a swampy mix of guitar, strings, brass, and a mixture of live and programmed drums; this is the same as Arab Strap at their mid-00s peak, only refined to an even greater degree. The subject matter has changed slightly; whereas the Arab Strap of the duo’s youth was into dirty bars, cheap drugs, and casual sex, the Arab Strap of 2021 is less enthused about them. In fact, a lot of the album frames these youthful indiscretions in terms of the everlasting dissatisfaction that arises from them; people in these songs are between places, stuck permanently between the day and the night, marriage and divorce, belonging and being cast out. “Fable Of The Urban Fox”, probably the best song on a collection of great ones, uses the way foxes were driven into urban areas through human activity as a metaphor for the UK’s wary hostility toward immigrants. The tension the duo build through their instrumentation lends itself well to this sense of neither/nor, curling and twisting in on itself and out again with a deftness that even the band’s first run can’t match. There are any number of bands that break up and then get back together. A fraction of those get it together enough to record a new album, and often it’s only as a means to touring; when the Pixies put out Indie Cindy it was clear that the old magic just wasn’t there. As Days Get Dark, then, is a rarity: the reunion album that brings the band to an even greater height.