Arab Strap’s much anticipated return and latest offering, As Days Get Dark, is a rich and powerful rejection of nostalgia and returning to the past. The band’s first album since 2005, this gothic return kicks off with ‘The Turning of Our Bones’ and Aidan Moffat’s raw and honest narration of life, ego and death sets the tone for the album.
‘The Turning of Our Bones’ is hypnotic and rhythmic, dark, twisty and filled with atmospheric repetition, both lyrically and musically. The duo perfectly capture the listeners’ attention using spoken-word techniques favoured by great storytelling musicians such as Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.
Utilising intensely gothic imagery, the album is gritty and filled with elements of horror, but compared to Arab Strap’s earlier work, there is a feeling of acceptance balancing out the dark humour of As Days Get Dark.
As Days Get Dark is an evolution of Arab Strap’s angst and apathy from growing up in a small town like Falkirk. The album is a collection of stories taking listeners on a journey of the modern human condition. There is an underlying urgency as each song builds, and the combination of Moffat’s vocals and Middleton’s music creates gritty storyscapes which listeners can step right into.
While ‘Kebabylon’ seems somewhat defeatist, it could easily be an anthem for the twenty-first century. Simple but poignant, the chorus hangs in the mind and pulls listeners into the close embrace of the “empty, filthy streets” where they belong.
This album is storytelling laced with existential crisis and humour and Moffat’s lyrical genius brings each song to a climax without sacrificing the emotion and truth of the subject matter.
It is easy to connect with tracks like ‘Bluebird’ with matter of fact refrains like “I don’t want your love, I need your love.” But Moffat cuts through emotional strain and longing with his straightforward, Scottish tone. The band perfectly executes this with familiar language that is masterfully used to add depth to each song.
As Days Get Dark finds Arab Strap crossing new waters and leaning into their roots and passions. Alternative and gothic, As Days Get Dark sets a new standard for storytelling in Scottish music and is a welcome return of one of central Scotland’s most iconic bands.
Words: Naomi Head