Few bands personify the lived working-class experience as Falkirk duo Arab Strap. For over two decades, songs about fucking; fighting, pills and booze, fucking, friendship, death, disappointment , and… erm… fucking… have become their trademark. Profane poetry and introspection alike rub up with the kind of 3am clarity that causes lesser battle-scarred bands to give up the debauchery for something far more wholesome.
This, their first new album in sixteen years, sees Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton revisiting such ideas, albeit from the perspective of older, occasionally wiser, musicians.
Indeed, electronic, existential string-soaked paean to the vagaries of older coupling, The Turning Of Our Bones only makes sense to ageing listeners perhaps, dealing as it does with a memento mori as it fumbles with zippers. It’s actually pretty sexy, albeit in a poignant way.
Another Clockwork Day almost operates like a Scottish Krapp’s Last Tape in acoustic balladry, as the protagonist goes into files in order to reignite some old passions, as an oblivious wife sleeps next to him.
The tender Bluebird could almost be pretty, with its twinkling keyboards and chirruping bird samples, were it not imbued with Moffat’s typically bruised, deadpan wit, and there’s a layer of saxophones included in Kebabylon, and an almost Dire Straits-esque guitar line (!) in Tears On Tour.
There’s nothing unexpected on offer, then, but like a favourite leather jacket, Arab Strap’s vinegary vignettes are as reassuring, timeless and beautifully crafted as ever.
Beauty and decay; night terrors and days of mundanity – it’s like they’ve never been away. It’s good to have them back, as days remain as confused and confusing as ever. Waitrose – and heaven – can wait.