on 25 October 2005
This is a more accessible album from the Falkirk boys than their last couple of (sometimes patchy) efforts. "Stink", with it's lilting chorus describing tales of sex and smelly flats after heavy nights. Aidens warped poetry and Malcolms delicate acoustic guitar are backed by cello on "Confessions of a Big Brother", while elsewhere "(If There's) No Hope For Us" and Speed-date are more up-tempo affairs. Current single "Dream Sequence" has more relationship scrutiny and features a catchy piano hook. Superb album closer, "There Is No Ending" is ultra-topical, mentioning everything from passive smoking to bird flu in one terrific rant! Overall, a well-paced work, which is both layered and infectious, and probably the best album they've made to date.
on 4 September 2010
Arab Strap continued their return to form with the Last Romance, which came out in 2005. However it turned out to be their last album. The band continued where they left off with Monday at the Hug and Pint by tightening their sound further, making this album their most concise of all at 10 tracks and only 36 minutes.
It's straight down to business with Stink, which bursts forward with Malcolm Middleton's downbeat guitar riff, over Aidan Moffat's growling tale of a lost weekend. "Burn these sheets that we've just..." spits Moffat, singing with more venom than ever. What sets this apart is that the details listed here are not what they got up to but Moffat's description of the girl he's with: "it's your skin and your breath and your sweat and greasy hair" over Middleton's coruscating guitar. The old romantic's at it again. The barrage of torrid imagery continues "empty cans and makeshift ashtrays everywhere, strangers waking up iin the Monday morning stink." It makes for a powerful opener, the whole thing is over in less than two and a half minutes!
The pace picks up further with (If There's) No Hope For Us which barrels along with thumping drums and driving guitars, probably Arab Strap's fastest song. Moffat dissects a relationship like noone else: "we never used to let just one spare moment go to waste, but now you're hardly here and when you are you're bored and chaste." Later in the track female vocals from Nicola MacLeod provide a counterpoint: "that's me then, I'm all packed, you know I need some time to think" but Moffat answers "you take what you think you'll need I think we both might need a drink."
Don't Ask Me To Dance is similarly economic, yet it still skips along quickly, over deftly picked guitar and a cutting chorus: "and maybe I'm not very vocal `cos I've used the words before, and the more they were repeated the more they were ignored." A whole album of this can be a little heavy, and the more stripped down tracks like Confessions of a Big Brother and Come Round and Love Me provide some light relief (though the former contains the crushing revelation that "sometimes there's nothing sexier than knowing that you're doomed").
It doesn't all work, the cry in your beer Chat in Amsterdam, Winter 2003 should have stayed in the pub and Speed-Date is a little too similar to No Hope For Us. The music continues to excite later on the album, Dream Sequence features some fine piano playing from Barry Burns of Mogwai, and Middleton plays a lovely fragile guitar part on Fine Tuning.
This grubby (in a good way) thing ends with There Is No Ending, an upbeat, trumpet led track form which there is no coming back for these guys, but a fine album to finish up their career as Arab Strap with. A perfect combination of acerbic lyrics and wonderfully brooding music.
on 18 December 2005
i love the understated, and as such, my first response to this effort was less than positive. this is a different arab strap to that of the past, a more immediate, uptempo 'Strap with something to prove. Yes, there are quieter moments, but they're rare, desiged to fill the space between the melodious and the loud. for arab strap, post rock is dead. let it grow, though, and there's a minor miracle to behold. the lyrics are as prescient as ever, but the songs do indeed resonate it, albeit in a different way. it took a while, but i might just be coming round to aidan's way of thinking. arab strap needed a jet of cold air, and maybe this is just it.....
on 2 February 2007
When I kissed what was to become my first long term girlfriend, on the floor of my friend's house party to the sound of Here We Go/Trippy on repeat, I could have never known that nearly ten year later Arab Strap would be one of my favorite bands, but I guess the signs were all there. I kind of forgot about them after the disappointing Elephant Shoe (great title though). Then I was in HMV one February afternoon in 06 and spotted this CD - and I wasn't disappointed. Probably their best album since Philiphobia and easily their most accessible to new fans. The lyrics and music are so focused and tighly intune, still funny; still sad, bitter, resigned, and now, in turns, loving.
The Strap seem to be coming round to the idea that they might be able to settle down and breed. Racing through tracks like they simply have to get this out of their system (the whole album clocks in a punk 30ish minutes). Standout tracks are 'Stink', 'If There's No Hope Left For Us', 'Confessions of a Big Brother' and 'There is No Ending' the latter of which contains a fanstic end rant which we can all salute with a beer in our hands.
And then they were gone.
For me this was the best album of 2006... closely followed by Ten Years of Tears. Buy them both!
on 11 March 2009
Having been a fan of Arab Strap since first hearing songs from their excellent second album Philophobia, I'm not sure why I never bought this album until now. This is pretty much the perfect Arab strap album and is a wonderful send-off for the fans who've been with them through their 'Ten Years of Tears.' The duo really hit their stride with the record and it gives a great insight into the solo work that both Aiden and Malcolm would go on to produce. For others, like me, who overlooked this album, I can't recommend it enough. And for anyone who's only just getting into the band this is a great starting point as it's probably the most poppy and instantly coherent of their albums.
on 23 October 2005
I have been pleasantly surprised by this album, I was disappointed by their last two. I felt they were just drifting, but on this record Aidan has raised his lyrical acuity up a notch and the musical bits from Malcolm accompany him perfectly. They at last convey a sense of euphoria on There is no Ending, even though the lyrics are full of self-loathing. And on speed-date they seem to be producing an anti-swinger manifesto which I can wholeheartedly sympathise with. Could it be they've turned a corner? Seen the light at the end of the M9? Fallen in love? Whatever it may be, I'm glad they're still spreading the miserabilist gospel