In Review: Arab Strap - As Days Get Dark

On their first album since reforming five years ago, the Scottish indie duo offer a keener view of death and decay, yet still unearth poetry in the ordinary.
Posted: 15 March 2021 Words: Wes Foster

Arab Strap went their separate ways back in 2006, reforming a decade later. Five years after this, As Days Get Dark marks their first album since reforming, and the next part in the evolution of one of Scottish music’s stalwarts. 

Unlike most reformations, it doesn’t hang with that fog of the past and especially trying to replicate the same sound. Instead, it builds on what was once was. And it is what once was, it has a finality. Even their early reformation for live shows was marked with only the release of a rework of what is probably one of their most famous tracks, dubbed instead 'The First Big Weekend of 2016'. Their evolution is mostly driven by self awareness - Aidan’s writing is caustically self-examining throughout. The most obvious change is in their lyrics - where they often delved into younger paranoia or lover’s angst, they not speak with a self-assuredness. Tales of waking in unknown beds and all night raves are gone. Now these tales have grown into running themes of death, pubs, and masturbation. 

As a keen follower of Moffat, most of these themes come as no real surprise. Neither removed from the old Arab Strap, nor imitating. A keener view of death and decay is a little different - though it makes sense as Arab Strap always seemed to carry the most intimate of his work. The trust between the two-piece offers the space for these words. Their evolution continues musically too - it is no longer quite so 'bare bones' like earlier albums. It does retain the slightly off-kilter basslines and drum machines though, creating layers that are almost pop songs, almost soundscapes. This in between space is where they thrive - often it seems more like this is just music put to words. 

More than anything though, they seem especially good at ever reflecting a lived reality, those flickering day dreams and happenings of the inner city. Right down to the album cover made up of Mac preview screens, their work carries the poetry that is in the ordinary. 

As Days Get Dark is out now via Rock Action Records.

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