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The Week Never Starts Round Here

Arab Strap

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Album Review

The Strap's first album continues the initial splash made by the quirky groove of "The First Big Weekend," which is included here with thirteen other songs. Moffat's technique of undersinging/speaking his lyrics at points, combined with the lack of a lyric sheet, does mean that his vaunted dissections of modern relationships aren't necessarily as prominent as the group's most rabid fans would have. They're understandable more often than not, but work better almost as the niggling voice of one's conscience rather than as a prominent lead (though his take on "General Plea to a Girlfriend" is blackly hilarious, words and delivery both). Instead, it's Middleton's arrangements and performances, assisted by other musician friends along the way, which shape the album's balance between late-night rumination and cryptically aggressive power. The overall production brings out a lot of both space and drum punch — Steve Albini fans, especially those who appreciate his work with Slint, will likely enjoy the results here. "The Clearing," wisely released as a single, is a fantastic combination of everyone's efforts. Moffat's vocals are distorted but still quite clear, his subject matter as dour as legend has it, while a massive drum beat rumbles up from the depths behind a gentle combination of guitar, cello, and particularly lovely piano courtesy of Chris Geddes. Another track where Moffat's performance takes center stage is "The Smell of Outdoor Cooking," perhaps the most existential depiction of an evening barbecue ever, with a slightly queasy organ as the main instrument as drums relentlessly build. "I Work in a Saloon" is a quieter number in comparison to the restrained strength at play elsewhere, soft, crackling drum machines tracks and acoustic guitar supporting Moffat's ponderings. Other flecks of the folk roots of the group crop up on songs like "Little Girls," while "Deeper" concludes Week on a lengthy, low-key note.

Biography

Formed: 1995 in Glasgow, Scotland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Scottish post-folk duo Arab Strap were formed in mid-1995 by vocalist Aidan Moffat and multi-instrumentalist Malcolm Middleton, longtime friends who after years of exchanging cassettes of their respective bands decided to finally begin collaborating together. Upon signing to the hip Chemikal Underground label, they issued their debut single, the stark and downcast "The First Big Weekend"; the song was a major critical hit, with Britain's Radio One declaring it the best record of the decade. In...
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The Week Never Starts Round Here, Arab Strap
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