Some partnerships just work, even if it takes time. Eight years in the making, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat's debut album is full of gorgeous, jazz-inflected love songs fleshed out with a mixture of spoken word pieces and vocals delivered in Aidan's distinctive rhotic singing voice.
Wells is a Scottish multi-instrumentalist, composer, leader of the Bill Wells Trio and collaborator with The Pastels, Isobel Campbell, Future Pilot AKA and many more. Moffat is a modern-day Makar of many guises: Aidan John Moffat; Aidan Moffat & the Best-Ofs; his experimental work as L Pierre (aka Lucky Pierre) and, of course, his esteemed calling as one half of the iconic Scots duo Arab Strap.
"Everything’s Getting Older." You can almost hear Aidan Moffat sigh, quietly repeating it, muttering it with an embittered acceptance. As a serial miserablist, his ability to convey a venomous dissatisfaction is unparalleled, seemingly happy to sink into the role of the archetypal wretched bastard.
Moffat once said: "No one really writes honest, hateful love songs; the kids never hear it like they should hear it – they should know about the farting, the fighting and the f***ing, the pain and the pleasure." So it’s no surprise that, even after the combustion of Arab Strap, his projects haven’t once compromised his ethos.
Eight years in the making, Everything’s Getting Older is just as followers of Moffat’s work would expect. Inspired by a partnership with fellow Scot and multi-instrumentalist, Bill Wells, it’s an album that’s undeniably tender. It unveils the raw nerves Moffat’s never been afraid to expose; but there’s also a caustic, depraved undertone, which drives beyond the twinkling melodies and pensive piano chords.
Breathless and romantic, lovelorn and lusting, Moffat’s characteristic honesty and intensity regales us with stories of debauched, primal rutting, guiltless affairs and the apathetic aftermath. Backed by Wells’ compositions – the jazz and percussive interludes menacingly skitter and stab in the background – tracks like Cages possess a deliciously unsettling atmosphere, and there are plenty of similarly uneasy pleasures throughout.
The mournful The Copper Top is an arresting, spoken-word stream of consciousness from a man alone with his thoughts, while Dinner Time may give your next meal a worryingly Hitchcock-esque drama. But when Moffat finds a groove and starts to spit the vitriol, as he seethes on Glasgow Jubilee, it’s a fearsome exercise in caustic delivery. Cool, cold and bristling with contempt, the dead-eyed scorn is brilliant in its callousness. But for all the reticence, the beauty of his work has always been his wry, dry sense of humour, capable of undoing the malaise he paints so disdainfully in an instant.
It’s easy to revel in Moffat’s bleak wordplay and his everyman observations, but behind the black clouds and bitterness there are reminders of love and tempered optimism, encompassed by The Greatest Story Ever Told. It’s a powerful ode to things finite which could so easily have been a needlessly ostentatious flourish – that it’s not undermined and overblown owes much to the commitment of making despondency a beautiful thing.
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