Arab Strap – As Days Get Dark
The return of Arab Strap is a solid, if not barnstorming, success
Arab Strap’s first studio album together since 2005’s The Last Romance is marked by a feeling of not quite-ness; everything’s there but it just doesn’t quite click into its potential at many points. A good half of the record treads in similar ground to opener and comeback single The Turning of Our Bones; drum machines, faintly angular guitar arpeggios and Moffat’s largely spoken dissection of middle age. This works to great effect on the aforementioned opener, but both Compersion Pt 1 and Bluebird never properly grip, simply sliding by, at no point stridently unpleasant listening, but never particularly affecting either.
The album is at its best when it turns away from this sound into stranger waters. The guitars in Another Clockwork Day are busier, folkier, spindling around Moffat’s spoken tale of pornographic disappointment before it goes full renaissance fair with lovely gentle fanfares of brass and strings, while the lyrics grasp with brilliant specificity the comfort of memory.
Tears on Tour, meanwhile, has something of latter-day Nick Cave about it, letting Moffat’s voice wander at the centre of huge yearning washes of synth chords to genuinely moving effect. I Was Once a Weak Man acts as a sort of microcosm for the record; it's built on gorgeous strings and is full of funny lines, but the chorus is a touch unconvincing and the wailing guitar lines ring of cliche. It’s symptomatic of a problem that afflicts a fair few songs on the record, a sense that a couple of perfectly good ideas never quite coalesce into properly great songs. It leaves an album of strong moments and passages that unfortunately often disappear far too quickly.
Listen to: The Turning of Our Bones, Another Clockwork Day, Tears on Tour