Albums of 2018 (#6): Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert – Here Lies the Body

Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert's debut collaborative album, Here Lies the Body is the tale of two protagonists whose stories snake through passion, deception, grief and maternal abandonment

Feature by Susan Le May | 27 Nov 2018

There was an inevitability to the more permanent musical pairing of Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert following the success of Car Song from Hubbert’s 2012 Thirteen Lost and Found album, but that was just a glimpse of what was to come on Here Lies the Body. The duo’s debut emerged after years of interwoven history and friendship, and when they spoke with The Skinny before the album’s release earlier in the year, they admitted to a certain ease with the process, which came largely through mutual trust and a combined wealth of experience.

“It was almost an extension of the writing process where we just kind of left each other to it,” says Hubbert of recording the album. “The core relationship on the record is trust and it was like that with Tony [Doogan, who mixed the songs at Mogwai’s Castle of Doom] as well. We knew his work and we trusted him to go and not just put in eight hours a day and go, ‘it’s done’. He would keep going back until he thought it was good enough.”

The record features Siobhan Wilson on additional vocal and cello duties, as well as Arab Strap’s David Jeans on drums, whilst piano and saxophone act as delicate but delicious accoutrements. There’s discotastic pop, samba beats and strings, rare death-wail field recordings and nightmarish fairy tales with wolf-howl sax and sinister percussion, all embellishing Hubbert’s peerless playing and Moffat’s unmistakable vocal delivery and lyrical wit. It’s the tale of two protagonists: long lost lovers whose stories snake through passion and deception, grief, maternal abandonment, and all of the seedy spaces in between.

Recorded at Chem19 by Paul Savage and mastered by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road Studios, the album was released on 11 May via Rock Action Records. Here Lies the Body has taken the duo through a series of successful shows over the year – replete with the pair’s inimitable on-stage banter – and has lead to a further collaboration on their festive offering, Ghost Stories for Christmas.

The album’s primary themes emerged after Moffat had been reading about a woman who had left her children. He wanted to both explore this taboo and take a backseat from writing about himself. Hubbert, too, was pleased to assume a role distanced from lyrical or vocal duties. “I would basically send off ten songs about death, and then they would come back about shagging,” he states. “The whole theme of the album – death and shagging,” roars Moffat.

Moffat doesn’t shy away from referring to Here Lies the Body as a concept album: “I don’t mind calling it [a concept record] anymore because it kind of is, there’s a story in there and every record I’ve ever written with lyrics, even some of the instrumentals, have some sort of story behind them and something you can find,” he suggests.

“I never used to talk about it because in the 80s the idea of a concept record was disgusting. People died in the punk wars for that fucking shit to be ended! But these days I think it’s important that folk know that albums have a bigger function beyond just being some songs. The songs are on one record together for a reason, they all came from the same place and have the same characters in them. I think it’s important to talk about these things so we can elevate albums beyond the idea that it’s just a wee pile of songs that people shat out at some point.” 

Inception to fruition took some time as the pair busied themselves with other projects – Moffat with his Where You’re Meant to Be film and the reunion of Arab Strap, and Hubbert with his Telling the Trees album. Moffat says that doing an album together was the “natural thing to do,” despite how long it took for them to pull it all together. “It was a long time coming,” he admits.

“I think people get this idea that we’re pretty fucking miserable, and we’re not,” suggests Hubbert. “That’s why your gigs work so well because you have a laugh in between the songs and I think people enjoy that,” Moffat replies. “Arab Strap was like that too. I talk a lot of shite. Sometimes I say too much.”

“Join the club,” quips Hubbert. “Aye, you’re calling me verbose, fuck you,” jokes Moffat to riotous laughter from them both. “At least I have the good grace not to do it during the song,” Hubbert retorts.

Here Lies the Body was released on 11 May via Rock Action