arab strap – the last romance

all we can do is master a technique

telling. this album is very different to what i first knew of arab strap through elephant shoe. that had remarkable subtleties. this has very few, but that doesn’t mean i don’t like it.

the last romance reflects its title remarkably well – the music is more violent, faster and louder – though not entirely; the lyrics are more lost about the relationships in a way, angry and desolate. delivered in aidan’s trademark scottish verging-on-spoken-word voice. i know most people disagree with me – there are a number of references to what appears to be happiness, and lots of joy in sex here which didn’t really happen before. but i hear underlying pessimism still. as though he doesn’t believe or experience what he’s singing about.

some of the songs take this too far, such as the uncomfortable realism of chat in amsterdam, winter 2003. it’s mostly an off-set doubled-up spoken vocal track with accordion or something similar, and some loud guitar noise towards the end. perhaps it works for the angst it’s trying to convey. but on the good side, a song with a piano melody and rhythm as catchy as dream sequence redeems it. this is as good as they ever were.

if elephant shoe was the two blokes thinking they might be nearing the point of growing up, this is their post-long term relationship break up record. that holds more than just the obvious connection to the content – as much about the fact that this was their last record after ten years of doing it together.

so far, it also takes credit for the shittest cover – drawings that look like they were done by a senior school kid for their art project (i know it’s an australian artist). i don’t think it means anything to the music. not that every (or indeed, most) piece of album art has a direct connection to the sounds contained within.

the emotional basis of the album reminds me of the final line from a palace song… when was the first time you realised the next time would be the last time?

if i go back to the feeling of pessimism above, i realise that perhaps aidan moffat is the musician who has come closest to capturing the way my love life has actually been, rather than what other bands sang about which tended to sketch out what i wanted it to be.

it’s not like i prefer it this way. and if there’s hope for aidan, surely there’s hope for me?


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