60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #21


Arab Strap – Philophobia (1998)

I know that many of you don’t engage when I write about Arab Strap, and indeed there’s probably a strong likelihood that you’ve quietly ignored a number of previous posts, letting me get on with a bit of self-indulgence.

As such, I have no qualms about doing a bit of cut’n’paste today, and regurgitating a piece from 2019, when I marked Philophobia‘s coming of age.  The piece was accompanied by four songs, and I’m keeping it that way today, except that three of them will involve YouTube videos with just the one mp3, thus keeping with how things have been done throughout the rundown.

Philophobia, the second studio album by Arab Strap is now 21 years old.

“It’s an impressively ambitious and sprawling record, coming in at 66 minutes, It has thirteen songs, all of which could pass as short stories or poems set to music. It’s never a comfortable listen, but it always manages to hold your attention throughout. It’s a brutally candid record, with the protagonist in each song seemingly all too often putting his mouth in motion before properly engaging his brain. It does occasionally seem to sail very close to the wind in terms of misogyny but if the songs are given a concentrated listen, and the lyrics are read closely in the wider context, it won’t take long to come to the realisation that in spitting out such venom, our singer is lashing out as a way to excuse or explain his many physical and social inadequacies.

“The lyrics throughout are incredible. Most reviews over the years have homed in on the opening five lines, and rightly so:-

It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen
But you’ve no idea where that cock has been
You said you were careful – you never were with me
I heard you did it four times
But johnnies come in packs of three

“If there has ever been a more shocking and heart-wrenchingly opening five lines to any album, then please enlighten me. It’s a song that takes your breath away from the offset and has such a powerful lyric that you are understandably distracted from the wonderfully understated guitar work going on in the background before the final emotional punch in the guts over the final minute and as the melancholic cello kicks in.

“My own favourite moments come a short time later. The scenario is a lover’s tiff at the end of a night out, probably after both sides have had too much to drink, and most certainly over something completely trivial but right now of such significance that the relationship seems doomed:-

“I defy anyone to listen and deny that they’ve never been in a similar situation.  It was there and then that I made my mind up that Aidan Moffat was the greatest Scottish lyricist of my generation, a view I have never wavered from these past two decades.

“Philophobia also made my mind up that Malcolm Middleton was the most talented Scottish musician and arranger of my generation. It takes a special sort of skill to come up with music to complement perfectly angst, pain and fear without it being maudlin, downbeat or depressing. The guitar parts are perfectly executed but there is also great use made of keyboards, drum machines, strings and the backing/co-vocals from Adele Bethel, especially on the song which paints a much more realistic post-sex picture than lighting up a cigarette and letting out a contended sigh.

“I’ve read that some critics don’t like the one-dimensional pace of Philophobia, with the opinion that an upbeat number or two, along the lines of First Big Weekend of The Summer  would have livened things up for the better.

“As you may have guessed by now, it’s not a view that I subscribe to. Arab Strap would in later years write and record some truly astonishing and memorable albums, but nothing ever quite came together as majestically as Philophobia.

“The sound of being insecure, nervous, scared, frustrated, flawed, bewildered, confused and far from OK has never been bettered.”

mp3 : Arab Strap – I Would Have Liked Me A Lot Last Night




Last time up in this series, Jonny the Friendly Lawyer presented us with  Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event, recalling it as a song that took him back to 1985 when he found out his girlfriend had been cheating on him.

It got me thinking about a song I’d long been considering, reluctant however to bring it forward as the lyric is just too brutal in so many ways to make for a ‘great’ story. But, as JTFL was able to point out, when it comes to songs, the subject matter doesn’t have to be all sweetness and light to make for a great lyric.

This one is as far from a love song as it is possible to get.  It is prose rather than a lyric.

You’d already been about half an hour with your pre-clubbing shower. I had always planned to have a look in your special Winnie the Pooh book. The place was marked, and it was there in blue and white. It just said simply, “Paul stayed last night.” Next I was on the bog, and you got down on one knee. You were protesting your innocence, and you started to cry just as I started to pee. You said, “I didn’t shag him, he slept on the couch in the kitchen. He might as well be a girl, he’s a good for a laugh, and he’s good for bitchin’.” You said you’d never be willing or able. And he looks like he was made on a fucking table. Although, to be fair, I think he hides the bolts quite well, but as soon as he opens his mouth you can just tell. I had just assumed you’d completely gone off shagging, and I can just see you with your new Uni pals, standing bragging. Now he’s your boyfriend and I know you were talking shite. But you still denied it when I met you at someone’s birthday party the other night. You said, “I didn’t shag him, he stayed on the couch in the kitchen. He’s just like one of the girls, we have a good laugh when we’re sitting bitchin’.” The words that you used to think turned me on just made me laugh. “Do you want to suck my cunt?” in real life just sounds naff. And when we were with your friends, I just as might as well have been no one. And you can’t get over your dead dog – well, it takes one to know one.

mp3: Arab Strap – Piglet

Pain, disbelief and then the visceral anger in dealing with the inevitable break-up. I reckon we’ve all said things in the heat of the moment that we later regret and acknowledge as having gone too far.

From Philophobia, released in 1998.  It’s an album packed with incredible short stories.



I make no apologies for bringing back Aidan Moffat for a second successive chapter, but this is more of a horror story than anything else.

Arab Strap really did come back with a huge bang in 2021.  As Days Get Dark, the first album in sixteen years, is superb. This is one of its stand-out tracks:-

mp3: Arab Strap – Fable of the Urban Fox

They came in from the country
They were hounded from their homes
They’d always dreamed about the city
With its towers and spires and domes
So the dog fox and his vixen
Vowed to flee their savage fields
To a land of hope and glory
And a future it could yield

There’s no rest however far we roam
Somewhere on this earth, we will find home

But the city didn’t want the foxes, the city didn’t care
Their help and hope and heart and hearth they dreamed of weren’t there
So they scavenged and they foraged
Slept from shitty place to places
Among the hostile architecture
And all the hostile faces

There’s no rest however far we roam
Somewhere on this earth, we will find home

And the daily papers found their plight and presence most concerning
Their headlines screamed enough’s enough, we’re overcome with vermin
These foxes skulk around our streets
The locals live in fear
These scruffy scrounging parasites
They don’t belong ’round here

There’s no rest however far we roam
Somewhere on this earth, we will find home

One night they met a bulldog
He said, “What you doing here, then?”
They told him of the redcoats, of their fallen the hunted brethren
They said, “There is no going home now, the land we love is cruel”
The dog said, “Fuck off back to Foxland, these streets are fucking full”

There’s no rest however far we roam
Somewhere on this earth, we will find home

One cold and hungry night, they find their dinner sitting pretty
The foxes can’t believe their luck, who keeps chickens in the city?
But the chicken lover sees them prowl his pricey habitat
So he bashes both their heads in with his trusty cricket bat

There’s no rest however far we roam
Somewhere on this earth, we will find home

A few months after the album was released, a new version of the song was recorded, with a marginally edited lyric that made it radio-friendly. It’s a minute or so shorter than the original and was released as a digital single, which I would hope you will buy from here.  It’s also where you’ll have the chance to view the promo video, which itself is an excellent short film.

mp3: Arab Strap – Fable of the Urban Fox (Check/Fault Mix)

In the accompanying press release for the new version, Aidan Moffat said:-

“When I wrote the lyrics for this in 2019, I was hoping its obvious allegorical message might not be relevant by the time it came out, but sadly it seems the lack of humanity in government and influence of rightwing media continues to prevail. We had a lot of good feedback for the album version, so it was suggested we release it as a single, but we felt it was a bit too long and attempted to trim it—but one thing led to another, and pretty soon it became a proper remix with new parts and drums, much like we did with ‘(Afternoon) Soaps’ back in the old days. So it’s the same song in a new outfit—a tighter fit for a new season, suitable for all occasions.”

Did anyone mention Priti Patel and Rwanda?



It was a couple of years back when I was told, by an impeccable source, that Arab Strap were back in a studio looking at the possibility of making a new album, which would be their first since The Last Romance back in 2005.  I got excited, but then calmed down quite quickly as I didn’t imagine anything ever seeing the light of day, especially with both Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton investing so much time and energy into their solo projects.

The confirmation that things were going well came around this time last year, just before the first lockdown period kicked in, with the same source telling me that the new songs were ‘outstanding’ and would be real treat for those who enjoyed what the duo had been up to in the past decade and a half.  The release in September 2020 of the video for the lead-off single, as mentioned on the blog here, really whetted the appetite.

It’s now been 20 days since As Days Get Dark was given its official release, and I must already be getting close to wearing out my copy from over-playing it.  It is, and I use the word advisedly, a masterpiece.

Arab Strap have made a lot of very good albums over the years along with at least two great LPs, but most times there’s been one or two tracks that dip a bit.  Not, however, on this occasion. The music and lyrics throughout are outstanding; the former in particular, which to my ears leans heavily towards the sort of things that have been coming out via the solo records, and in particular the largely instrumental Human Don’t Be Angry material.

There was a superb review on clashmusic.com, penned/typed by Marianne Gallagher:-

Sex. Death. Tears. Love. The march of time and the flight of foxes.

What couldn’t Arab Strap write a song about? Their seventh studio album, ‘As Days Get Dark’, retains the mordant wit and scrumptious miserabilism that’s kept them the pride of Falkirk.

But don’t arrive expecting the old comedown ballads. Though they were roused back to life by 2016’s heroes-welcomed reunion tour, ‘As Days Get Dark’ doesn’t deal in the old material. It declares its stance from the first lines: “I don’t give a fuck about the past, our glory days gone by / All I care about right now is that wee mole inside your thigh”.

Maturity doesn’t mean mediocrity. It’s turned their focus widescreen, though the beady eye doesn’t spare its glee for the gory details. It’s just bigger, in every way. Musically, texturally, lyrically. Working with long-term production ally Paul Savage of chem19, they’ve infused old templates with fresh instrumentation, pulsating electronics and some mad jazz flourishes.

It’s older and wiser. And that’s trite, but true.

Night’s the filter through which we view the imagined city. ‘Kebabylon’ imagines a happy-hour kingdom where people shed their skins and free themselves,“chasing down the ghosts of indiscretion and lust”. Slashed with strings, tension built through a murk of guitar and electronics, a flurry of free-range trumpet takes us to a chorus you can imagine belted out as someone’s carted home. The “moonlight maids” of cleaners and street-sweeps clear the evidence before morning.

Moffat captures the chancer’s charm of the seasoned Romeo, as he operates under cover of darkness (“a doyenne of deception, sometimes he wonders if he could’ve been on the telly”).

More domestic rituals are observed on the strummed Another Clockwork Day, as a bored man slips from his sleeping wife, treading a well-worn file path to look at his “lo-res memories, buried in folders within folders”.

But humans aren’t the only nocturnal animal, and concerns are more than base.

‘Fable Of The Urban Fox’ is a contemporary Aesop – an allegory of foxes fleeing a cruel country to seek refuge in the city, finding instead a thankless place full of “hostile architecture and hostile faces”. It isn’t too much of a leap to imagine the parallel drawn, especially as a ‘bull-dog’ spits: “Fuck off back to Foxland, these streets are fucking full.” – It’s one of the finest songs they’ve ever written. Sensitively orchestrated, the hurried, frantic violin line symbolic of the hunt to find a place that’s home.

‘Tears On Tour’ sets glacial 80s goth electronics behind a Moffat monologue, listing all the times he’s cried. “What do you call the opposite of a comedian? That’s what I wanted to be…I even planned the merchandise: 100% cotton handkerchiefs, embroidered with tour dates.” Twinned vocal and guitar lines build to crescendo, before an angsty solo steals the show. Middleton has never sounded better.

The singles are enormous: the insidious riff of ‘Compersion P1’. burrows into the brain; ‘Here Comes Comus!’ demolishes its swaggering central barfly – a man who promises you the night, if only you’d follow your nose.

But ‘The Turning of Our Bones’ is where the real spirit lurks. A four-minute rhapsody on love, death, resurrection and shagging, where bongos beat and sax squalls add to the melee.

Willing of flesh and weary in spirit, Moffat encourages us to embrace the freedom of revelry: “Take my hand and be brave, we’ll say goodbye to this grave/ Tonight we salsa, we rave/ We are upcycled and saved!”

The marriage is back on the table, and lessons have been learned. Taking the time apart (“it was great to split up”, said Middleton, wryly) gave them space to reassess their back catalogue and refine their individual talents. Reunited, each is the perfect foil for the other.

Arab Strap are back with a vengeance. And it’s fucking glorious.

Fable of The Urban Fox is, as the reviewer has said, one of the finest songs they’ve ever recorded, and while the story has (spoiler alert) a sad and indeed tragic ending, it is delivered with acidic wit taking a swipe at the those in the middle and privileged classes who don’t exactly practice what they preach.  Put the words ‘Jolyon Maughan’ and ‘foxes’ into an Internet search engine to get the gory details……

It’s too soon after the release of the album to offer up any mp3s, and I’ve already posted the video to Turning Of Our Bones.  Here’s what the duo have made available via video channels:-

I was stunned to see that part of the Comus video was filmed just a few hundred yards from Villain Towers…..I’ll never be able to walk under that bridge again without humming or singing the tune.

Album of the year?  Absolutely.



This came up via the i-player while I was away in world of my own last Sunday, out stretching my legs in an effort to avoid boredom.  I made a mental note to check on my return and, true enough, I hadn’t previously included it in this series, albeit a couple of other Arab Strap songs have been earlier chapters

So that was the first big weekend of the summer… Starts Thursday as usual with a canteen quiz and again no-one wins the big cash prize. Later I do my sound bloke routine by approaching Gina’s new boyfriend to say that he shouldn’t feel that there’s any animosity between us and then I even go and make peace with her. I shouldn’t have bothered. Then on Friday night we went through to the Arches…

There was only one car going, so some of us had to get the train. We got through quite late. Then we went to a pub to take the gear. There was no problems getting in – we saw some others waiting down the front of the queue so we skipped in. It was a good night, everyone was nutted and I ended up dancing with some blonde girl. I thought she had been quite pretty until last night when Matthew informed me that she had, in fact, been a pig. When the club finished we wandered the streets for a while until we got to this 24-hour cafe but I didn’t like the look of it so we left and got a taxi back to Morag’s flat. I couldn’t sleep, so I sat about drinking someone else’s strawberry tonic wine and tried to keep everyone else up.

Then at ten o’clock in the morning we went downstairs to buy some drink. We had intended to watch the football in the afternoon but we’d passed out by then and slept right through it, awaking to find that England had won two-nil. Then we went to get the train home and had a few in the Station Bar. We had some stuff left from the previous night’s supplies so when we got home we decided to go down to John’s indie disco. Same story as Friday – lots of hugging, lots of dancing etc. etc. I couldn’t sleep again so went up the park to look at the tomb, taking a detour through the playpark. To get in we had to climb over a ten foot steel fence, which resulted in severe bruising of our hands, legs and groins, but we had a good laugh on the stuff, especially the tube-slide, which probably doubles up as a urinal for drunk teens. Then we walked through the woods to have a look at the tomb. It was a big disappointment, but the mist on the lake was cool.

Sunday afternoon we go up to John’s with a lot of beer in time to watch the Simpsons. It was a really good episode about love always ending in tragedy except, of course, for Marge and Homer. It was quite moving at the end and to tell you the truth my eyes were a bit damp. Then we watched these young girls in swimsuits have a water fight in the street.

(“Taping this, aye?”)

We went up to the pub about ten. It was busy for a Sunday night, lots of people we know, including my first ever girlfriend who I still find very attractive, quite frankly, but I didn’t really speak to her. She’s probably still a bitch, anyway. Her friend Gillian was there, I had a chat with her, she was still quite pleasant. At the same time I watched Malcolm make some terrible attempt to try and chat up a girl we know called Jo. He made some remark about her skirt that was barely there the previous night or something. I couldn’t sleep again that night, thanks to some seriously disturbing nightmares…Matthew says I should cut down on the cheese.

“Went out for the weekend, it lasted for ever, high with our friends it’s officially summer.”

I got some sleep eventually on Monday afternoon. It was a beautiful day, and later that evening Malcolm introduced me to the power of Merrydown – £1.79 a litre, 8.2% – mmmm….. Judith and Laura came round later and we sat in my back garden and drank. Then Matthew came round and we went up the town. It’s officially summer.

mp3: Arab Strap – The First Big Weekend

The First Big Weekend took place on Friday 14 – Sunday 16 June 1996.  Aidan Moffat would have been 23 years old at the time, while Malcolm Middleton would have been 22.  I’m guessing the crowd of friends who travelled the 23.5 miles from their home town of Falkirk to Glasgow, scene of the Friday night/Saturday morning frivolities, would have been around the same age.

Your humble scribe was just a few days short of his 33rd birthday, and my big weekend was spent in St Andrews, with a crowd of 16 mates all staying two nights in a bed and breakfast and playing games of golf on each of the Friday, Saturday and Sunday under blazing hot skies – it was in the mid 80s the entire time.  We did, somehow, manage to stay out till about 1am on the Friday, get up to play golf at 7am on the Saturday, have some food and then watch the important football match in which England beat Scotland 2-0 in the European Championships.  Saturday night was a bit quieter and the golf on the Sunday was survival of the fittest…..

Here’s another couple of versions of the song.

The first is from Arab Strap’s first ever live gig at King Tut’s in Glasgow in October 1996…..you’ll spot that the lyrics are a tad different, but you’ll also perhaps spot that the friends referred to in the song are in the audience……it was the band’s ninth and final song of the set.  I’d love to say I was there, but I’d be lying…

mp3: Arab Strap – The First Big Weekend (live, October 1996)

The second version  was released as a digital single to mark the 20th Anniversary of the song.  It was remixed by Miaoux Miaoux, one of the other wonderful acts who have been part of the Chemikal Underground story.

mp3: Arab Strap – The First Big Weekend of 2016

The remix is, how do you say it, a banging tune………




Album: Monday at the Hug & Pint – Arab Strap
Review: Pitchfork – 8 May 2003
Author: Chris Ott

Only The Pogues invite more and lazier booze analogies than Arab Strap, so I won’t insult your intelligence by forestalling mine: if their career is the musical equivalent of an alcoholic life – and in all likelihood it is – Monday at the Hug & Pint is Arab Strap’s moment of clarity. It’s an album dominated by regret, frustrated reflection and a desire to move forward, the least bullshitting, most accomplished and first consistently great release from Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton.

Arab Strap enjoyed undue praise for their intrinsic gait, their hollow tunes profiting from the same sheepish Anglophilia that made Irvine Welsh and Belle & Sebastian household names in America, where they can barely tell Scots from Cockney. The signature browbeating and bleating dirges still abound, but there’s an increased focus on songwriting rather than the moping first-person exposition that typified their first few records. Monday at the Hug & Pint doesn’t sound shockingly different from the rest of their catalog, but it’s a crystallization of identity and intent; where they once sprawled – hungover and depressed – Arab Strap have built on last year’s promising, alternately post- and pub-rock The Red Thread, proving they’re capable of taking themselves dead seriously.

Listening to their insecure and uneven beginnings – and ignoring The Red Thread as a bridge – Monday is an auspicious improvement. Though it’s nominally awkward, Depeche Mode‘s unpredictably great last gasp “Dream On” is an instant comparison with “The Shy Retirer”, a string-backed electro-acoustic dance tune with a newly positive nostalgia for the weekend’s pints. Genius lyrics abound – “You know I’m always moanin’/ But you jumpstart my serotonin,” and the somewhat infamous existential metaphor “this cunted circus never ends”– but just as the Matt Johnson (approaching Bono) croon of “Meanwhile at the Bar a Drunkard Muses” forecasts another barely conscious record of surly, sad-sack balladry (and skirts covering Ryan Adams“Come Pick Me Up”), “Fucking Little Bastards” smashes the accepted idea of Arab Strap to bits.

Sounding at first like the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ rendition of “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, “Fucking Little Bastards” cuts quickly into an overloaded post-rock, post-shoegaze dirge, its cinematic angst underscoring not only that Aidan and Malcolm have been spending a lot of time with Mogwai, but also that violinists Stacey Sievwright and Jenny Reeve have doubled the import of Arab Strap’s maudlin work. The duo’s “fuck it” experimentalism remains intact, tacked on in a closing minute-plus of collapsing loops and telephoned vocals that could have gone on forever as far as I’m concerned.

Returning to the acoustic dance sound that’s earned the group its audience, “Flirt” fails to make the same impression as the record’s opener, mostly because the vocals never dig any hooks in, syncopating with a beat too slow to warrant such interplay. After another typically Strap ballad – “Who Named the Days”– my hopes faded. In the age of compact discs, it’s very difficult to give a record the feel of having two sides, let alone convince a listener there’s hope for something better around the bend. Sigur Rós recently managed it, and Arab Strap one-up them with the dividing “Loch Leven”, a tune that’s structurally typical of the band, but rises above the shirking, impatient post-rock folk of old in its more deliberate craft and inspired performance.

It’s done one better by “Act of War”, where the strings (and horns!) lift into a hitherto unimaginable aggression– “The fact is you’ve always been clumsy!”– possibly due to the involvement of Bright EyesConor Oberst and Mike Mogis, who worked with Moffat and Middleton on much of the record (as did Mogwai’s Barry Burns).

“Serenade” introduces liberal studio layering, overloading reverb, organ and strings and invoking everyone from The Smiths (“Rubber Ring”) to Sparks (“I only go for girls I’ve got no chance with”). Pinpoint samples of bottle rockets whizzing around add space, inferring that the night’s gone on perhaps too long and spilled out onto the lawn. The album ends with a somewhat repetitive appendix (“Pica Luna”), missing the perfect parting shot, a rousing piano sing-along named after their first record.

Though it’s just forty-five minutes long, Arab Strap make Monday at the Hug & Pint feel like an eternity – just like everything else in their catalog. While that was an unbearable aspect of their less considered youth, these days Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton are taking pints slowly, thinking before they speak. The girls go for a sharp wit when it’s doled out in good measure and offset by sensitivity; with any luck, these two won’t be reaching for the Arab Strap this weekend.

JC adds…….

Monday at The Hug & Pint is a very fine record, but I’ve not got it in my Top 3 of Arab Strap albums, having fallen for their ‘insecure and uneven beginnings’.  I was intrigued by this review, not least as it was from an American and I never imagined that the music of Arab Strap would survive any sort of Atlantic Crossing as it is, in many ways, as parochial as you’ll ever find, with the colloquialisms and Scottish humour struggling to be understood or appreciated.

And while I fail to see any resemblance to Depeche Mode, Sparks or a deft b-side to a single by The Smiths, I really like how the reviewer makes allowances for the mid-album dip (one that I’m in full agreement with) and talks up the Loch Leven/Act of War one-two (although they are separated by Glue in the running order) as they are among the duo’s most unexpected moments up to that particular point in time, but with hindsight can be seen as pointing the way for much of Aidan Moffat’s solo career and indeed the other collaborations he would go on to enjoy.

mp3: Arab Strap – The Shy Retirer
mp3: Arab Strap – Fucking Little Bastards
mp3: Arab Strap – Loch Leven
mp3: Arab Strap – The Week Never Starts Round Here

The last of the above features a very rare lead vocal from Malcolm Middleton.

Oh, and while I’m here, the new Arab Strap album and gigs this coming year will go someway to making up for how crap 2020 turned out.


Philophobia, the second studio album by Arab Strap is now 21 years old.

It’s an impressively ambitious and sprawling record, coming in at 66 minutes, It has thirteen songs, all of which could pass as short stories or poems set to music. It’s never a comfortable listen but it always manages to hold your attention throughout. It’s a brutally candid record, with the protagonist in each song seemingly all too often putting his mouth in motion before properly engaging his brain. It does occasionally seem to sail very close to the wind in terms of misogyny but if the songs are given a concentrated listen, and the lyrics are read closely in the wider context, it won’t take long to come to the realisation that in spitting out such venom, our singer is lashing out as a way to excuse or explain his many physical and social inadequacies.

The lyrics throughout are incredible. Most reviews over the years have homed in on the opening five lines, and rightly so:-

It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen
But you’ve no idea where that cock has been
You said you were careful – you never were with me
I heard you did it four times
But johnnies come in packs of three

If there has ever been a more shocking and heart-wrenchingly opening five lines to any album, then please enlighten me. It’s a song that takes your breath away from the offset and has such a powerful lyric that you are understandably distracted from the wonderfully understated guitar work going on in the background before the final emotional punch in the guts over the final minute and as the melancholic cello kicks in.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Packs Of Three

My own favourite moments come a short time later. The scenario is a lover’s tiff at the end of a night out, probably after both sides have had too much to drink, and most certainly over something completely trivial but right now of such significance that the relationship seems doomed:-

mp3 : Arab Strap – Here We Go

I defy anyone to listen and deny that they’ve never been in a similar situation.  It was there and then that I made my mind up that Aidan Moffat was the greatest Scottish lyricist of my generation, a view I have never wavered from these past two decades.

Philophobia also made my mind up that Malcolm Middleton was the most talented Scottish musician and arranger of my generation. It takes a special sort of skill to come up with music to complement perfectly angst, pain and fear without it being maudlin, downbeat or depressing. The guitar parts are perfectly executed but there is also great use made of keyboards, drum machines, strings and the backing/co-vocals from Adele Bethel, especially on the song which paints a much more realistic post-sex picture than lighting up a cigarette and letting out a contended sigh.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Afterwards

I’ve read that some critics don’t like the one-dimensional pace of Philophobia, with the opinion that an upbeat number or two, along the lines of First Big Weekend of The Summer  would have livened things up for the better.

As you may have guessed by now, it’s not a view that I subscribe to. Arab Strap would in later years write and record some truly astonishing and memorable albums but nothing ever quite came together as majestically as Philophobia.

The sound of being insecure, nervous, scared, frustrated, flawed, bewildered, confused and far from OK has never been bettered.

mp3 : Arab Strap – I Would Have Liked Me A Lot Last Night

PS : The reason I didn’t illustrate the posting with original artwork is that the nudity would have been flagged up by one of social media links for Simply Thrilled and gotten us into trouble!



It is the second appearance by Arab Strap in this series. It won’t be the last.

Oh and there’s a reason why this had to be posted today. But you’ll need to come back tomorrow to find the reason why.

It must have been at least three years ago. I had a crush on this girl I didn’t know. I thought it was a good idea at the time but I was pissed. I tried to find her by sending an ad into ‘The List’. It was free ’cause they’d just started this brand new section. First I passed it on to my old friend Denise for her inspection. It said: “I saw you twice and both times you were wearing orange. And she told you I fancied you in the toilets at The Garage.” There was never a reply, perhaps it didn’t astound her. That’s assuming she ever saw it but I think I’ve found her. I thought it could’ve been her in a club on Saturday night. She was a couple of tables away and I thought it might be. But I was far too drunk, so an approach was out of the question. But this guy Stuart had sent us tickets to see his band Belle & Sebastian. We went along thoroughly drunk, stopped for a post-gig “Hello.” And I think the girl I was looking for is friends with the girl who plays the cello. I think she’s coming to see us when we play. And every time we meet I’ve got nothing to say. She probably thinks I’m cute, she maybe thinks I’m gay. She’s probably got a boyfriend anyway. I remember the first time that I saw her, I was completely in awe. I thought, well that’s the kind of girl that I would like to be my squaw. And if I could ever be the kind of brave that she would choose, we’d travel plains with our little baby turned in its little papoose. She sat beside me in a public bar, my bird was in the bog. When she returned she said that she would like to give that girl a snog. And two weeks later we split up and a new lover I was seeking. And when I see that girl again I’m just never up for speaking. I think she’s coming to see us when we play. And every time we meet I’ve got nothing to say. She probably thinks I’m cute, she maybe thinks I’m gay. She’s probably got a boyfriend anyway.

mp3 : Arab Strap – I Saw You (Peel Session)

This was regularly aired in early livs shows but it was never pit out on an album or single. It was, however, recorded for a Peel Session in March 1997 and finally made available to the public on the Ten Years Of Tears! compilation released in 2006.



This might develop into an occasional series or I might just do this one and move on.

Some songs, as the title of the posting indicates, are great short stories. Such lyrics are always crystal-clear and open to only one interpretation. This, which can be found on the debut LP by Arab Strap, is one of my all-time favourites of the genre:-

mp3 : Arab Strap – I Work In A Saloon

I work in a saloon, pulling shit pints for shit wages
It’s a busy night tonight
And the bar is full of all the girls I’ve ever shagged, or tampered with, or kissed, or even just fancied

A pub full of conquests, knockbacks
Between the laughter I can hear my name

And then, through the gap between the swing doors and the floor, I see your feet
You push open the doors and walk in
And as always all heads turn
And the room becomes silent, except for the sound of your DMs scuffing on the floor

You stroll through the jealous gaze straight to the bar, smile, and ask me for some exotic cocktail
But I don’t know how to make it
So you just shrug, smile again, turnaround and leave

And I pull another pint

Here’s a souped-up version, as played by the full band at their first ever gig at King Tut’s in Glasgow on 15 October 1996 and as captured by a BBC outside broadcast and made available as part of the Scenes Of A Sexual Nature box set:-

mp3 : Arab Strap – I Work In A Saloon (live)

Aidan Moffat. The 20th/21st century national bard of Scotland.




As much as I have loved the solo output from Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton, I have hugely missed Arab Strap.

This however, is the week they are playing a short tour of gigs in London, Manchester and Glasgow. My ticket is for tomorrow night for the Barrowlands, my favourite venue in the world. I’ll do my best to avoid looking at the setlists from the gigs in England so that I get the full element of surprise. But given how excited so many folk have been about this reunion then I’m sure it’ll be all over social media and near impossible to ignore.

In celebration of what will be a highlight of my year, I’m posting a single from back in 1998. It’s a different version of the song Soaps that appears on their peerless 1998 LP Philophobia. I’ve also pulled together the various b-sides from the 7″ and 12″ versions

mp3 : Arab Strap – (Afternoon) Soaps
mp3 : Arab Strap – Phone Me Tomorrow
mp3 : Arab Strap – Toy Fights
mp3 : Arab Strap – Forest Hills

I’ve also decided to post the video as it is unusual in a number of ways.

Firstly, it is the extremely rare sight of a clean-shaven Aidan. Secondly, Malcolm appears in the video for a short time – and from what I remember it’s the only time he ever does in any of the Arab Strap promos that were made.

I’ve a feeling the video inspired this great promo six years later:-



Just as I thought my weekend couldn’t get any better, I’m off tonight to an unusual gig in an unusual venue.

The Citizens Theatre in Glasgow is the venue.  This weekend sees the The Citz Sessions, a short series of specially-curated gigs hosted in what is a magnificent and intimate Victorian auditorium.  Guest curators have brought together some of their favourite artists to present an intimate, stripped-back, acoustic performance in the iconic surroundings of the theatre.

Tonight is an all-female line up from the worlds of jazz, classical and pop – the latter being represented by the new in the shape of TeenCanteen and the established via Frances McKee (Vaselines) and Clare Grogan.  Can’t really ask for much more can I?



I went on Facebook last night and posted something. It’s not normally something that I do…I tend to use the place as a way of throwing out pithy one-liners in response to what others have said; indeed, I only joined up in the first place as it was the way to keep on top of certain announcements around events and ticket availability. But such was the magnitude of the happening that I felt I had to share my thoughts with my cybernet mates:-

They say good things tend to come in threes. Here’s some evidence….

I recently had the good fortune to catch incredible live performances, at small intimate venues, from two of my all-time favourites in the shape of Robert Forster and Belle & Sebastian.

Not too many things could top that. But the announcement that Aidan and Malcolm are reforming for three live shows this coming October does exactly that.

2016 started off real shit for music fans with far too many sad and untimely deaths. The summer has so far been an awful lot better…..

A wee bit of explanation.

Robert Forster is a total legend. But his visits to these parts are, naturally, few and far between and so the fact he was coming to Glasgow and playing, of all places, the wonderful space that is King Tut’s made it a ‘must see’. However, I was nagged by the fact that someone as talented and revered as him wasn’t playing a larger venue given the legacy of his time as a Go-Between and not forgetting last year’s Songs To Play was such a wonderful listen. I was concerned too that I’d go along and end up annoyed with folk who were only there for the old stuff and would show a lack of respect by talking their way through the material they either didn’t know or were less fond of. And in a venue with a 300 capacity, all it would take is a handful of such idiots to ruin the occasion.

My fears came to nothing as this was one of the best audiences I’ve ever had the privilege of being part of. Robert and his band got a rousing reception and the cheers for his solo material were every bit as loud as those for the songs by his old band. He was on stage for the best part of two hours, struggling a bit with his voice as he had a dreadful cold, but where many would have been tempted to use that as an excuse to hold back in a performance he seemed to use it to push himself that bit harder. He played around 20 songs with half coming from the Go-Betweens back catalogue…and he had such a talented group of musicians with him that it felt as if the clock really had been rolled back more than 30 years. It was bliss. I didn’t think I’d enjoy myself so much at a gig in 2016.

And then, just two weeks later I find myself at the Debating Chamber of Glasgow University Union (capacity 500 – 250 standing and same again seated upstairs). I’ve been in this space quite a few times but never for a gig….and by my reckoning it will be about the 75th different Glasgow venue that I’ve paid to see live music performed (must do a posting o that sometime). Belle & Sebastian are due on stage for what will be the first of three nights to celebrate their own 20th Anniversary and the 21st Birthday of the West End Festival, a highly popular event held every summer in the most bohemian quarter of my home city. I’m not sure what to expect as my expectations of the band have been gradually diminishing in recent years with recent albums leaving me disappointed and then there was a farce of a gig at the Hydro (capacity 13,000) in which they failed dismally in their efforts to put on a show in keeping with that size of venue. It was full of gimmicks, stage-managed to the point of ridiculous and just not in keeping with the band so many of us had fallen head over heels with.

Another show just under two hours long, with most of the material drawn from the very early albums and EPs , and almost all the songs being aired in the live setting for the first time since I didn’t have any X’s in front of the L in the label of my indie-kid t-shirts. And it was joyous and a celebration of everything that not only makes the band special but brings out the best in folk from my home city who know instinctively when they are seeing and hearing something special and react accordingly. There was no talking in between songs, no attempts to sing-a-long and drown out the band, and there was hand-clapping when the band sought a bit of accompaniment at the right times. I smiled at the opening note of the first song and I was still grinning as myself and Aldo made our way home in time for the last train thanks to the venue being in an area where there is an early curfew – this would normally be a bone of contention but not on a Monday night when there’s a long week at work ahead!

Two days later though, all of that gets topped.

Arab Strap were together for ten years from 1996. Since then, Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have carved out successful and critically acclaimed solo careers which has played a part in how revered their original band had become since they walked off stage for the last time in December 2006. They jokingly (or so it seemed) said at the time said they might reform in another ten years.

The internet stirred last weekend when the band’s website suddenly carried the teasing message ‘HELLO AGAIN’ imposed on top of a very early promo photo. A countdown to Monday lunchtime led to a message to listen in to Steve Lamacq’s show on BBC Radio 6 on Wednesday afternoon. That was where it was confirmed they were getting together for three shows in October in London, Manchester and Glasgow. Furthermore, a download single was being available – a Miaoux Miaoux remix of The First Big Weekend – which would be released 20 years to the day when the actual weekend in question took place. Which just happens to be today.

I’ve purchased and downloaded the song and it is fucking amazing. A musical highlight not just of 2016 but of the 21st Century.

A year that was threatening to be the worst ever has suddenly, and very unexpectedly, taken a huge turn for the better.

mp3 : Robert Forster – Rock’n’Roll Friend
mp3 : Belle & Sebastian -If You’re Feeling Sinister
mp3 : Arab Strap – I Saw You




here we go

I’ve been lucky enough to live almost all of my life in a reasonable sized city – 40 years in Glasgow and 5 years in Edinburgh (updated now to 48 years in Glasgow!). Both are well-renowned in the visual and performing arts, with proud-roll calls of musicians, painters, novelists, entertainers and raconteurs. You wouldn’t expect anything different given both have more than 500,000 residents.

There is a town called Falkirk that is situated almost exactly halfway between Scotland’s two main cities. It is home to around 33,000 people which makes it the 20th largest settlement in Scotland (you would be surprised to find just how small in global terms our towns and cities are).

It is a fairly typical Central Scotland town in that it was formerly heavily dependant on heavy industry and engineering, much of which has disappeared in the last three or four decades. Nowadays, many of the local population take the commuter train west to Glasgow or east to Edinburgh for employment.

I think it’s not unfair to say that Falkirk is the sort of town where folk grow up and usually look to move elsewhere when they can.

And yet it is a place that has produced some incredibly talented folk over the past two decades in particular. A couple of my favourite authors Gordon Legge and Alan Bissett hail from the town – both fill their books with ordinary and recognisable characters who are often besotted with music, football, cars, drugs and alcohol. (Sadly, Gordon Legge last wrote a novel in 1998, but Alan Bissett is still going strong and his website is here)

(NB : Since 2008, I can add Adam Stafford as someone connected with Falkirk to the distinguished list.  He was born in Sunderland but moved to Falkirk at a very young age….)

One of my favourite bands (now sadly no more), consisting of Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton, hail from Falkirk. They were of course Arab Strap, a pair who filled their songs with recognisable characters who are often besotted with….well if the truth be told, sex and drugs.

The odds of a town such as Falkirk producing so many great artists in such a short timescale must be pretty high. There’s nothing about it that immediately grabs you as being inspirational – it’s a very ordinary, almost dull place. And yet each of these writers and musicians have taken their surroundings and produced narratives that grab your attention from the outset and keep hold of it until the last sentence on the last page or last note is struck on the single or album.

Arab Strap have often been accused of having been latent miserablists. Aidan Moffat as the principal songwriter has, by some folk, been labelled as misogynist. The evidence seems to be a lot of the songs are about failed relationships and that the protagonist often blames his other half for what happens rather than look at his own faults. He’s no misogynist, just a hopeless sad romantic….there’s no other explanation for song titles like The Girl I Loved Before I Fucked and Meanwhile, At The Bar, A Drunkard Muses. And have a listen to Where We Left Our Love if you still have doubts.

Aidan Moffat is probably the most unique songwriter to come out of Scotland in my lifetime. The characters in his songs are more often than not angst-ridden, lacking in self-belief, riddled with doubts and always in fear of failure. Almost all of his songs could be filmed as a short story. And when you dig a little bit below the surface, you will often find some fantastic examples of humour in his writing.

What makes the band so special however is that Malcolm Middleton was able to take these brilliant bits of narrative and set them to music that was equally as ground-breaking and imaginative.

(And before anyone pulls me up about how I’ve suggested the labour in the band was divided, I’m well aware that sometimes Aidan wrote music as well, and that Malcolm did contribute some lyrics.)

It’s true that Arab Strap are a bit of an acquired taste. But I think they were fantastic over the ten years they were together, and their break-up was a sad day for Scottish music. But at least we have the consolation of them both performing as solo artists now.

This single was released on the Glasgow-based label Chemikal Underground in 1998. It can also be found on the truly astonishing and jaw-dropping LP Philophobia, whose cover features drawings of a nude Aidan Moffat and his then girlfriend.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Here We Go
mp3 : Arab Strap – Trippy

Warning :  Trippy is more than 12 minutes in length.  It’s a short story about drug-taking that has got all sorts of sounds set to it.  It’s quite unique.

Here’s the lyric:-

Ailidh phoned me at work at about half four. It’s funny I don’t even speak to her any more, she’s a fucking wee cow. Better than everybody, ken? Doesn’t speak to her mates or anything like that. Anyway, we got in at the time and she phones me up and asked me what I’m doing tonight. I was only going to sit in and watch the telly as usual, wondering where everybody else was. So she said, come round to Rab’s house and that, get some trips, ken? So I said I’d go round about six. I was about an hour late and I was knocking on the door and that, and nobody answered. And I thought, oh fucking brilliant they’re away out without me and that, they’ll be away up the town having a laugh. So I walk back round the road, ’cause I thought they were away out, and I phoned. Turns out they had still been there. They were that out of it, they couldn’t even get to the door.

So I went back round. Everybody was fleeing as usual and I got handed my half. And I thought I’d just take it, ken? I’m working the next day, I better not go too far. But two hours later, nothing was happening. so I thought , fuck it. And I took the rest, which I’d been warned about already. Everyone was jumping about the front room as usual, and we were sitting giggling, having a laugh and then Cheg came and took us to the pub in his car. We told Cheg he should be our anchor, that was a fucking laugh. He kept telling us to calm down, as though he was our mum and dad and that, ’cause we were acting like weans and giggling and looking at the table and dropping our drinks all over the place.

We made it back to his car, jumped in, and he took us back round to the house. Then he decided to pack it in and go home. So Malcolm and I get back in the house and suddenly someone’s going on about Rab and how he’s he’s no fucking there , and how he’s away outside and he looks like he’s in pain or something like that. He had to go and pick up some more stuff ’cause they’d used all this stuff for Glastonbury the next week. And somebody said he apparently took something when he was there, so he’s writhing about in pain outside. So Malcolm and I walked out and he’s was walking along the edge of road on the grass and that with his fucking stomach held in his hands and he’s screaming and that. And then we lost him. He disappeared into the park and we didn’t know where he was. So Malc and I were walking about and then we found him. But we decided we should stay back a bit, ken? In case he got a fright. So we followed him up into this park, as though that wasn’t going to scare him anyway!! And when we did find him, he was there doubled up in pain, fucking screaming his eyes out, going on about how his stomach was knotted and he shouldn’t have taken it, and it was a stupid thing to do. So he’s sitting there on the hill and that with Malc and I on either side and all we can do is sit and giggle and look at the grass and take the piss out of him.

So we get him up on his feet and we start walking him about and he says he’s alright. And we walk up to the garage and he’s going on about his stomach. Then he starts shouting about how we should get away from him and that, in case something happens, in case he fucking dies or something. So he says he thought it was that bad, that’s what was going to happen and he didn’t want us to be involved. He always looked out for everyone else, ken? So we take him to the garage and he wants a bottle of Irn Bru and he’s fuckin’ downing this bottle of Irn Bru, talking about his fucking stomach and everything and how he’s taken this thing and he has to get it out of his system and talking about how it’s all in his bile, and he’s desperately trying to make himself sick and he’s screaming all the fucking time as well. And Malc and I are still laughing – we don’t know what he’s up to. He could have taken anything, I wouldn’t know.

Nobody’s sure yet about what he took. Fuckin’, he could have injected something, he could have swallowed something, nobody knows. But he just stood there with this dirty fucking face, it’s all black and dirty and brown, ken? He’s halfway down his bottle of Irn Bru and he’s being sick all over the fucking place. And a car went by, slowing down the road but he’s just screaming all the time about how it was all in his fucking bile and how he wants to be sick. He keeps fucking screaming… then he threw up.


So we walked him back to the house after made us swear we wouldn’t tell anybody. So he goes back to the house and he fucking tells everybody. He locked himself in his room and started eating a bag of sugar or something like that, while everyone else was talking about what a dick he was. I ended up at the park that night. Sitting eating Pringles with Paula and watching the wildlife. And the next day when I went to work I was still out of my face. I was pacing about on the stairs talking to myself and writing things and he walked in and stressed the point about making sure that no one would find out.




I said more than enough yesterday.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Gilded (live at King Tut’s, Glasgow on 16 October 1996)

Wish I’d been there.

Originally recorded for the b-side of the debut single.  As you’ll hear from the introduction, this was the very first gig the band played but already there were folk who knew all the words!!

The boys have since admitted they were far from sober when they took to the stage.  But at least their nerves had been steadied…




I know this effort will not get anything like the same attention as #11 in the series for the simple fact that there are far more fans out there with a knowledge of and an opinion on The Clash than there are when it comes to Arab Strap.  But for me, this narrowing down to just ten tracks was every bit as impossible a task and one that I will complete and immediately look at it and feel I want to make a change.

The reason for turning to this particular band today is quite simply down to the fact that they are due to feature in tomorrow’s Saturday series and I was stumped as to which song and from which era to plump for.  So I decided it would be best to have a go at the imaginary compilation LP and then add something else in for the Saturday series.

Arab Strap are probably my favourite Scottish band of all time, although The Twilight Sad are vying for that top spot.  It’s probably only the fact that Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton continue to produce so much in the way of outstanding post-Strap material that keeps their former band at the top of that particular chart.

They released six albums between 1996 and 2005 along with a dozen or so 45s/EPs, one live album, a number of limited edition pressings and finally an end of career compilation followed by a box set.  Of all of these, only the live album (as so often with many bands) proved to be a bit of a letdown coming nowhere close to capturing how good they could be on stage.

Their material offers much from a musical point of view. There were nods to indie, dance and techno in much of the material as well as Middleton displaying an incredible talent for all forms of guitar playing from melancholy acoustic string-plucking right through to axework worthy of the rock gods he grew up worshipping.  Lyrically there was and still hasn’t been anything quite like them with Moffat using his distinctive Central Scotland brogue to half-speak and half-sing what seemed like highly personal tales of a drug and drink fueled existence that all too often ended in pain, misery and regret.  And there was never any thought given to cleaning up the langage….this was music set to discussions you would have with your mates in a pub or at the football….it was authentically working class and it was more authentically Scottish than anything I had ever heard before.

And so, without further delay, here’s what I’ve come up with for today’s imaginary compilation LP:-

Side A

1. Packs Of Three (from the album Philophobia, released in May 1998)

“It was the biggest cock you’ve ever seen
But you’ve no idea where that cock has been
You said you were careful – you never were with me
I heard you did it four times
But johnnies come in packs of three”

Has there ever been such a  shocking and heart-wrenchingly opening few lines to any song as to this opening number to the band’s second LP?  If so, please enlighten me….

The lyric is so powerful that it initially distracts you from the wonderfully understated guitar work going on in the background and then, for that final emotional punch in the guts for the final minute and a half the melancholic cello kicks in……

2. The Shy Retirer (from the album Monday at The Hug & Pint, released in April 2003)

The opening track from the band’s fifth album set to a tune that is worthy of being classified as an indie-disco classic – it’s the sort of thing you could imagine appearing on a Belle & Sebastian or indeed a Go-Betweens record although while Stuart Murdoch/Robert Forster/Grant McLennan (RIP) have written many a fine and poetic song about the pain of unrequited love they never quite got to the nitty-gritty in the way that Aidan Moffat does in this instance.

Everyone involved knew that this song deserved a much wider audience than one of its lines with its stark lyric would have allowed and so a radio edit was put together and issued as the lead track on an EP but it didn’t chart.

3. The First Big Weekend (single, released in September 1996)

This is the song with which Arab Strap announced themselves and is, in effect, a true short story of what a group of close friends got up to over the course of a long weekend from a Thursday afternoon through to a Monday afternoon, set to a tune driven by an acoustic guitar and a drum machine.

I can actually pinpoint the weekend in question – Thursday 13 to Monday 17 June 1996 – with the big clue being the reference to this big international football match on the Saturday afternoon. I can vouch that the weekend in question was ridiculously hot and sunny and I spent it in St Andrews with a group of mates getting drunk and playing golf and of course watching that very football match.

As much as I enjoyed myself that big weekend, there’s no doubt the packed few days of canteen quizzes, Glasgow night clubs, chatting up girls, getting high and drunk, coming down and starting all over again with an interlude of watching an episodes of The Simpsons was much more fun. But then again, on the eve of my 33rd birthday my crazy days were over…

It actually turns out that the debut LP, The Week Never Starts Round Here, was already finished but Chemikal Underground suggested a single to precede it would be a useful tool. It was written over a morning and recorded the same afternoon.  It was very quickly picked up by John Peel and Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 1 and indeed would go onto be voted as #2 in the 1996 Festive Fifty.

4. Don’t Ask Me To Dance (from the album The Last Romance, released in October 2005)

From the first of the band’s songs to one of the last and it perfectly demonstrates just how much their sound evolved, developed and matured over the decade they were together.  It’s an album that has far more of a rock element than any of their others and the closing minute and a half enables Malcolm Middleton to demonstrate his guitar god credentials.

Nobody knew at the time that the band had decided to call it a day on the back of their sixth album and certainly none of their fans would have anticipated that both would go on and have successful solo careers, but the hints of what the seemingly lesser-appreciated/valued member of the duo was going to be capable of in the coming years can be heard on this and many other songs on what is a hugely underrated record.

5. I Saw You (Peel Session, recorded in March 1997)

I find it astonishing that the boys never released this until they had called it a day.  It’s a song that was part of many of their early live shows but given its fast tempo and rocking tune it didn’t fit in all that well with the material that would eventually find its way onto Philophobia in 1998.  And so the Peel Session was the only time it was ever recorded and it eventually saw the light of day on the Ten Years of Tears! compilation released in 2006.

Arab Strap had a great relationship with John Peel. As mentioned earlier, the debut single featured highly in the Festive Fifty and it was no surprise that early the following year they had a debut Peel session.  One of the other tracks they recorded was a re-worked version of The First Big Weekend with the lyrics re-written to document the trip to London to do the session. on which Stuart Murdoch and Chris Geddes of Belle & Sebastian also performed.

Side B

1. Love Detective (single, released in January 2001)

The band also used a fair bit of piano and keyboards to great effect on many of their songs, particularly in the second half of their career and this #66 hit single (and subsequent track on the LP The Red Thread) is a very fine example.   It’s also another frighteningly imaginative lyric in which Aidan recounts to a friend almost breathlessly over the telephone how his world has crashed around him after he broke into the box where his girlfriend keeps some secret things including a personal diary.

2. Here We Go (single, released in March 1998)

I didn’t pick up on Arab Strap until well after the debut LP had caught on and so this was the first thing of theirs I ever bought on its release and which I helped get to #48 in the singles chart (the highest position any of the singles ever reached).  This is a song that I listed at #17 in my 45 45s at 45 rundown back in 2008 and if I was to repeat the exercise today it would still feature so highly in any rundown.  I’m sure we’ve all been in this place at some point in our lives – sitting or standing looking at the other half of your relationship and wondering just what it is that has led to the two of you temporarily hating the sight of one another…..

3. I Would’ve Liked Me A Lot Last Night (from the album Philophobia, released in May 1998)

The second successive track lifted from Philophobia, one of the most brutally warts’n’all albums ever recorded with equally brutal warts’n’all artwork with a painting of a naked woman (Aidan Moffat’s girlfriend) on the front sleeve and a painting of a naked man (Aidan Moffat) on the back of the sleeve.

The word philophobia  is defined as “the abnormal, persistent and unwarranted fear of falling in love or emotional attachment; the risk is usually when a person has confronted any emotional turmoil relating to love in the past but can also be chronic phobia”

I’m guessing that those who suffer from philophobia will also have a huge degree of self-loathing.  If so, they would instantly relate to this incredibly sad and moving tale.

While it true that the 66 minutes that make up the record is never a comfortable listen it is also a work that manages to hold your attention all the way throughout.  It is the sort of record that really could only be made by people in their mid-20s as the subsequent decades of experiences would make them far better equipped to deal with the situations they are facing and the lyrics wouldn’t flow so easily.  But take yourself back to your teenage years and the decade that follows and I’m sure, having listened to Philophobia, that you will ne recalling all sorts of sordid and embarrassing memories and episodes.  It’s way cheaper than a psychiatrist.

4. Cherubs (single, released in August 1999)

Having enjoyed a load of critical success in the wake of Philophobia the band were the subject of a few offers to tempt them away from Chemikal Underground, one of which was accepted.

Go! Beat Records was the dance offshoot of Go! Discs one of the great indie labels of the 80s although by the time Arab Strap signed for them it was just another arm of the Universal Music Group.  Arab Strap had a thoroughly miserable time of it at the new label and within 18 months, after one album and one EP, they were knocking on the door at Chemikal who had no hesitation in taking them back with no hard feelings whatsoever.

If there was one good thing to come out of the time at Go! Beat it was this, the lead track on the EP the video of which I recall seeing on nationwide terrestrial television which would I reckon have been the first and possibly one time that happened in the band’s history.  It’s a fine blend of a punchy upbeat drum machine, fine strumming and a rinky-dinky keyboard behind a minimalist and faintly optimistic lyric. Yes, that’s right an optimistic lyric….of sorts.

5. There Is No Ending (from the album The Last Romance, released in October 2005)

The closing track on the closing album.  After dozens of songs that dealt with teenage and 20-something angst here’s one that celebrates love lasting forever until you grow old.

For a band that had to face up to so many accusations of being latent miserablists this is an extraordinary way to sign off and it captures Aidan Moffat for what I think he is – romantic at heart.  For the most part in the Arab Strap canon he’s been a sad and depressed romantic all too often seeking solace in the comfort of the bottle or from the drugs cabinet but now at last he’s happy and looking forward to the future and he wants the world to know it.

A joyous and wonderful anthem to finish things off.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Packs Of Three
mp3 : Arab Strap – The Shy Retirer
mp3 : Arab Strap – The First Big Weekend
mp3 : Arab Strap – Don’t Ask Me To Dance
mp3 : Arab Strap – I Saw You
mp3 : Arab Strap – Love Detective
mp3 : Arab Strap – Here We Go
mp3 : Arab Strap – I Would’ve Liked Me A Lot Last Night
mp3 : Arab Strap – Cherubs
mp3 : Arab Strap – There Is No Ending (7″single version)

That’s almost twelve hours since I typed the first word of this piece.  I’m away for a lie-down.


Keeping It Peel - October 25th



and in particular:-


mp3 : Arab Strap – The First Big Peel Thing (Peel Session)
mp3 : Billy Bragg – Lover’s Town (Peel Session)
mp3 : Cinerama – Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) (Peel Session)
mp3 : The Delgados – No Danger (Peel Session)
mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit – Mr Cave’s A Window Cleaner Now (Peel Session)
mp3 : Madness _ Bed & Breakfast Man (Peel Session)
mp3 : The Smiths – Rusholme Ruffians (Peel Session)
mp3 : T.Rex – Ride A White Swan (Peel Session)
mp3 : Urusei Yatsura – Hello Tiger (Peel Session)
mp3 : Wire – I Am The Fly (Peel Session)




With apologies to those of you who don’t like Arab Strap and those of you who can recall the TVV piece from back in May 2010 which forms the basis of today’s posting.

Up until a the spring of 2010 I had never spent £70 on a single bit of music. Indeed, it had never crossed my mind that I’d even ever consider spending such an amount of money on a single bit of music until the day that I read Chemikal Underground were putting together a box-set of Arab Strap material.

My original plan has been to place an order directly through the excellent website of the record label but then came news that the release date had been brought forward to support Record Store Day 2010 (which was Saturday 17 April) and so I changed tack and decided to buy it over the counter.

The thing is, I’ve never been a fan of Record Store Day and prefer to go back to the shops a few days after to pick up things if they happen to be left over rather than try to deal with the mania of dealers who swamp the stores buying things they believe they can make a killing on in later times, thus in one fell swoop defeating what should be the main purpose of the day.

Come Monday morning, I dropped into my favourite wee indie shop in Glasgow to be met with the news that it had sold out of its copies of  Scenes of A Sexual Nature but with Chemikal Underground being located just a short distance away, more stuck was due to be delivered. I returned 48 hours later and so ensured that Wednesday 21st April 2010 would go down in history as the day I handed over more money than I ever dreamed I would for a single bit of music.

Actually, I didn’t hand over money. I paid with a bit of plastic. And actually, it wasn’t for one piece of music when you look through the contents of the boxset.

OK, I already owned copies of the LPs The Week Never Starts Around Here and Philophobia. And I had a copy of the various singles etc released between 1997 and 1998 which were available on a specially compiled CD. But what I didn’t have previously were:-

– a copy of the first ever Arab Strap gig at King Tut’s in Glasgow in October 1996;
– a copy of the gig at T In The Park (aka Nedstock) in July 1998:
– ten demo songs, some of which never saw the light of day in the recording career; and
– seventeen other bits of music, made up of rare recordings, John Peel Sessions and an old unreleased track specially recorded in late 2009 for inclusion in the box set.

And on top of that, there were sleeve notes from Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton that were royally informative, enlightening, entertaining and very fucking funny (c’mon, its Arab Strap I’m writing about here….I can use an expletive).

Was it value for money?

Well, I reckon so.  I’ve often scoffed at people who bought all sorts of box sets and limited edition material released by well established musicians on major labels on the basis of them being fools for further lining the pockets of moguls. This purchase felt different…and still does all these years later.

Chemikal Underground is a label that has put a lot more back into the music scene in Glasgow than they have ever taken out.  Nobody has got obscenely rich via Chemikal Underground and indeed throughout its existence the label has tried prices as low as possible with one way being to keep profit margins very tight.  I was more than happy to pay £70 in this instance for what, when I counted them up were 43 new, live or different versions of songs that I hadn’t previously been in the collection.

As it turns out, the limited nature of the boxset (there were just 1,000 made available) and the demand for it worldwide has led to all sorts of silly money being demanded for copies – just looking on ebay as I type this reveals that two are on sale with bidding starting at either £250 or £360.

I’d hope that one day, Chemikal Underground might counteract such behaviour by making the limited edition material available to buy on digital form on an individual basis.   OK, as Brian from Linear Track Lives said in a comment the other day, even when he/she has copies of certain tracks in their collection, most music fans will still obsess over owning a physical copy and so there will always be somebody likely to pay well over the odds for things like the Arab Strap boxset.

When I first put up a posting about Scenes of A Sexual Nature, I did make two of the ‘new’ tracks available and make no apologies for doing so again.

The first is a different version of the band’s famous debut single that was re-recorded for a John Peel Session. To quote from Aidan’s sleevenotes:-

…..a new version of our debut single in which the lyrics were rewritten to document the most recent weekend and the trip down to London to do the session. Unfortunately, these new lyrics are shit. Also, for some reason – probably legal – they omit the highlight of the trip, an incident at our horrible hotel involving the cheapest cider we could find mixed with even cheaper cherryade, Malcolm’s head, a charity shop oil painting and some gaffer tape.

mp3 : Arab Strap – The First Big Peel Thing

And from a different Peel Session, an incredible version of one of the most amazing songs to open any album.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Packs Of Three

Yes, it is a slightly sanitized version so that it could go out on the radio, but again to quote Aidan’s notes:-

…we were a much more focused and sophisticated group – the difference between this Peel Session and the last is quite dramatic. I can’t imagine a better document of the 1998 four-piece Arab Strap sound than the tracks from this session and, if you may permit me a modicum of gentle hubris, I think they sound quite brilliant.

There was just one thing that disappointed  me about the box-set and that was Aidan’s closing words after describing how well he and Malcolm had got on when they had turned an old instrumental into a new song in the Autumn of 2009 – he simply says ‘There are no plans to reform properly, in case you’re wondering.’

I said at the time that I harboured hopes they would get together for at least one more gig.  Well, didn’t they just do that in November 2011 to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the opening of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, one of Glasgow’s most celebrated concert venues…..and the tragedy was that I didn’t get myself along.   Sigh.

I really can’t recommend this boxset highly enough. I know it was an awful lot of money to splash out, but at £70 it was still an awful lot cheaper than most of the hundreds of pairs of shoes and handbags that Mrs Villain stows away in various cupboards.  And while I’m here, I may as well add a third track:-

mp3 : Arab Strap – Daughters of Darkness

This was the instrumental turned into a full song for the box set and to the best of my knowledge, remains the only place it was ever released.

Happy Listening.


Back on 8 October 2011, I started a series called ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’.  The aim was to feature one 45 or CD single by a Scottish singer or band with the proviso that the 45 or CD single was in the collection. I had got to Part 60-something and as far as Kid Canaveral when the rug was pulled out from under TVV.

I’ll catch up soon enough by featuring 5 at a time from the archives..


(6) Altered Images : I Could Be Happy b/w Insects : Epic  7″ (1981)

Read more about Altered Images here


(7) The Apple Scruffs – Danielle b/w  Car Thief b/w Lit The Candle At Both Ends  : Vaults Recordings CD Single (2006)

The Apple Scruffs were four best friends from Glasgow that got together and began writing songs about their everyday lives and surroundings. After four months of hard work and practice the Scruffs played their first gig in Nice N Sleazy supporting the Ronelles at the end of May 2005.

From then on the band built up an amazing reputation in Glasgow supporting well known bands such as Dogs and The Ludes. They then landed a single deal with Hijacked Records. the scruffs released their debut single Danielle on Vaults Recordings on November 2006.

The scruffs were tireless on the Glasgow gig scene and played almost all of Glasgow’s famous venues.  Giving a final shot at breaking through the blinkered music industry they tailored a new single to a more commercial sound in Big Hearts launching this in the Apple store in Glasgow however it wasn’t to be and Johnny and the boys broke up to go seperate ways in 2010.


(8) April Showers – Abandon Ship b/w Abandon Ship (instrumental) b/w Every Time We Say Goodbye : Chrysalis Records 12″ (1984)

April Showers were a short-lived Glaswegian pop duo comprised of Jonathan Bernstein and Beatrice Colin.

Releasing their only known single “Abandon Ship” on Big Star, a subsidiary of Chrysalis, in 1984 it quickly gained a cult following due to it’s sparkling production from Anne Dudley (Art of Noise) and string-heavy arrangements. This quality was echoed on B-side “Everytime We Say Goodbye” with the 12-inch featuring an instrumental of Abandon Ship “Abandon Ship Sing-A-Long-A-Wonder Mix”. Both records are now highly collectible. (£50 and upwards nowadays for the 12″!!!)

Plans to release a second single on the label Operation Twilight, and the inclusion of Abandon Ship on the compilation album “10 Years Of Marina Records” seems to be a footnote to the woefully brief story of April Showers, the perfect example of a band that has disappeared into, and whose status grows with, history.

Now here’s where I cheat.  I don’t own this single…..it’s one that’s near the top of those I dearly would love to get my hands on but won’t pay the money demanded by the sellers…… I’ve the compilation LP mentioned above, and thanks to modern technology (and the generosity of folk who make the recordings available), I’ve picked up the other two tracks  It really is one of the great lost pop-songs of the 80s


(9) Arab Strap : Cherubs b/w Motown Answer b/w An Eventful Day b/w Pulled: Go Beat CD Single  (1999)

Read more about Arab Strap here


(10) The Armoury Show – We Can Be Brave Again b/w A Feeling   : Parlophone 7″ (1984)

Read more about The Armoury Show here

Again, I’ve tried not to go for the obvious ones from the back catalogues of the better-known acts and indeed in the case of Arab Strap have gone for a release from the short time they were on a label other than Chemikal Underground.  Oh and check out the Altered Images b-side if you don’t already know it….much darker sounding than you’d come t expect from them….real Banshees/Magazine influence on the track.