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Arab Strap: Monday at the Hug & Pint

 
Arab Strap
Monday at the Hug & Pint

Sex, drugs, booze, and relationships gone badly, aren't the most original topics in music, but Scotland's Arab Strap makes them as powerful as ever on their fifth studio album Monday at the Hug & Pint. Led by the slurred deviance of vocalist Aidan Moffat and the craftily orchestrated music of Malcolm Middleton, Arab Strap has taken their unrelenting bleakness and perversions to new heights.

Moffat tells listeners his deepest secrets over a dizzying array of electronics, strings, horns, keyboards, and rock instruments. He places us in the blurry-eyed Scotsman's booth at the pub scribbling in a notebook while peering into his forlorn heart. In "Fucking Little Bastards" he says his friends "know who I've fucked, they know what I've taken. They've seen me in the shower with shit down my legsā€¦ these days my cock's as numb as my heart." This unforgiving imagery coupled with his often-tuneless vocals personify that drunken friend at a bar, confiding his most shocking accounts while the jukebox emits pounding tom-tom beats drowned by feedback-laden guitars. Aidan's confessions aren't without twisted wit, like in the fragile acoustic "Pica Luna," where he proclaims "Every man needs a tit to suckle and some days I'm sure my legs could just buckle."

Moffat's haggard prose glues together Middleton's schizophrenic compositions, ranging from electronic to folk to rock within the first ten minutes of Hug & Pint. The album-opening "The Shy Retirer" is Arab Strap's stab at a dance club hit with its brittle and rudimentary disco beat flooded by a string section, over Moffat's tale of self-medication and lust at a club. Conversely, the following track is a barren and sluggish acoustic track "Meanwhile, at The Bar A Drunkard Muses." The variance of musical styles and ideas add dynamics to the monotone vocal delivery. The more traditional songs are the least interesting, and Aidan knows it with lyrics like "Easy come, easy gone, simple as this stupid song" in the "The Week Never Starts Around Here." Ultimately, Arab Strap released their most unique and emotionally jarring album yet, and you can bet that's what nurses their hangover.

Justin G. Sinkovich

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