Listening to As Days Get Dark (that’s the new Arab Strap album), time seems to disappear all together. Which is strange, because the themes that course through As Days Get Dark are often about time passing, about bodily and spiritual decay, the harsh realities of life in late capitalist Western civilisation. There’s a deep sense of elegy and of loss through out the album, and you realise that all of Arab Strap’s protagonists – narrated by the instantly recognisable Aidan Moffat – share a lineage, a consistent narrative. If in earlier years Moffat (if it’s Moffat we’re talking about, maybe these are characters that populate his darkly humorous imagination) was hard drinking and mapping out the romantic failures that great most of us in our early adulthood, on As Days Get Dark the narrator is searching through folders on his dusty Dell laptop, reveling in memories of sexual conquests. Of course, there’s darkness through out here but there’s a sweet punchline to that particular song (Another Clockwork Day) where we realise the object of his affections are his equally middle aged wife sleeping upstairs as he experiences his own personal relief downstairs.
You’ll excuse the somewhat lurid descriptions here but it comes with the territory. As with all Arab Strap music, there are moments of exquisite beauty set off against extremely funny epithets. On Bluebird, Malcolm Middleton’s stunning guitar work and atmospherics are the counterpoint to Moffat’s alternating lines about Shitehawks (At last, someone is back to reintroduce the term!) and, on the chorus, a rather heartwarming, vulnerable singing phrase about needing love. It’s these moments when you feel that no time has really passed in the last 18 years. This is an Arab Strap album and the sonic peculiarities that made them so idiosyncratic are all present, perhaps with a slightly updated Horror film analogue synth and 808 drum sounds sounding both rough n ready but also exquisitely produced. On Here Comes Comus there’s a brilliant big drum sound that pretty accurately approximates Sisters Of Mercy, while Middleton’s chorus-effected guitar swerves close to Astbury territory (we are NOT complaining) before a bloody BIG chorus about addiction, inebriation, temptation, the dirty reality of extending the weekend deep into the week, into what remains of your dirty wee soul. It’s brilliant.
Before we get too carried away with all the gloom and macabre wordage though, it’s good to remember the touching moments that sparkle through As Days Get Dark. It’s those moments, the agony and the ecstasy, that really erase time while you listen to the album that’s perversely about the passing of time. It’s astonishing and for a band that have (to these ears) never made a second rate album, this feels vital, modern, about now and about the reality we live in as days get dark. Except they’re getting lighter now, right? Maybe.
As Days Get Dark – Arab Strap is no longer in stock