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Arab Strap are a Scottish indie rock band whose core members are Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton. The band were signed to independent record label Chemikal Underground, and split in 2006. As indicated by the title of Belle & Sebastian's third record, The Boy with the Arab Strap, and by Aidan Moffat's involvement in the two Reindeer Section albums, they were a central part of Glasgow's influential late 1990s music scene.
|Genres||Slowcore, indie rock, alternative rock|
|Years active||1995–2006; 2011; 2016-present|
Vocalist Aidan Moffat and multi-instrumentalist Malcolm Middleton grew up in Falkirk, and bonded over their mutual love for Drag City recording artists such as Smog and Will Oldham (who at the time recorded under the name Palace Brothers). They began collaborating in 1995, and their debut album, The Week Never Starts Round Here, was released the following year. At this point Gary Miller and David Gow joined the band and became the rhythm section, creating a more dynamic live experience when the band started touring.
Over the course of their ten-year existence, Arab Strap worked with numerous musicians, including Jenny Reeve and Stacey Sievewright, as well as Adele Bethel, who went on to form Sons and Daughters. Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian featured on the album Philophobia, but the Belle & Sebastian album/song "The Boy with the Arab Strap" would later create something of a feud between the two singers.
Arab Strap's marked characteristics include sordid, personal, yet honest, lyrics – described by the NME as "fly on the duvet vignettes". Like fellow Scottish band The Proclaimers, their lyrics are sung in their native Scots tongue. At first essentially an electro-acoustic band with a brooding, spare sound, later albums and gigs saw them develop a fuller sound that drew deeply on both indie and dance music.
Arab Strap's first two albums, The Week Never Starts Around Here (1996) and Philophobia (1998), depicted the desperate decadence of post-Thatcherite Britain. The former album's "The First Big Weekend", a five-minute piece of drunken mayhem that end with a joyous singalong, "Went out for a weekend, lasted forever / Got high with our friends, it's officially summer," which was the chorus to "Hey!Fever," one of the tracks on the EP The Girls of Summer. The 1999 live album, Mad for Sadness, demonstrated how the sometimes spare recorded sound of their early music could lift into a celebration of a sexually empty, drug- and alcohol-dependent life.
After these albums, Arab Strap's music became much more musically polished, but continued to focus on drink, drugs, and existentially bereft versions of sexuality.
In keeping with the theme of sexual allusion (see arab strap (sexual device)), Moffat records as a solo artist under the name Lucky Pierre (later changed to L Pierre) – slang for the man in the middle of a gay threesome. This work is also characterised by a brooding, spare sound, but is instrumental in nature. Middleton also has a solo career under his own name, releasing two albums with Chemikal Underground and three more via Full Time Hobby Records.
On 9 September 2006, the band announced on their website that they were to split up. They celebrated the ten years since their first studio album with the release of a compilation record, Ten Years of Tears. They went on tour in Europe for the last time at the end of the year, and played their final show at the end of a secret tour of Japan at Shibuya O-Nest on 17 December 2006.
Post-breakup and 2016 reunionEdit
In a 2008 interview, Middleton stated: "It was a good time to call it a day. Unless there's a definite need and desire for us to play, I don't think we should ever get back together. We always said we would [collaborate again] when we split up, but I think maybe it's still too soon. Maybe in a few years when we've got time, we'll maybe try something for a laugh. Who knows?"
In April 2010, the Scenes of a Sexual Nature box-set was released, featuring early albums, live recordings, and a newly recorded track.
In August 2011, Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton released a cover version of Slow Club's new single, "Two Cousins", under the name "Two Cousins 1999". Moffat noted, "It’s not an Arab Strap performance as such, rather it’s the two guys who used to be Arab Strap recording their own, informed pastiche".
On 17 November 2011, the band reformed for a one-off show as part of Glasgow venue Nice N Sleazy's 20th birthday celebrations.
In an interview in April 2013, Middleton said that he would be open to the idea of future gigs, but cast doubt on any more Arab Strap records: "I think, with Arab Strap, it was good at the time. But we could only write songs of that ilk at a certain age. So I don't think we'll ever record again but it might be good to do a gig".
On 11 June 2016 a new website for the band was revealed with a countdown and a lone statement - "Hello Again", teasing a reformation. Arab Strap confirmed on 15 June that they have reformed for three shows at London's Electric Brixton, Manchester's O2 Ritz and Glasgow's Barrowlands Ballroom, all scheduled for October, marking the band's 20th anniversary. With this announcement, the band released a new version of their debut single, titled "The First Big Weekend of 2016", as remixed by Miaoux Miaoux. They later added a second date in Glasgow (after the first one sold out in under half an hour) and a warm-up date in Newcastle. A string of festival dates in 2017 followed.
- The Week Never Starts Round Here (1996)
- Philophobia (1998) UK Albums Chart No. 37
- Elephant Shoe (1999)
- The Red Thread (2001)
- Monday at the Hug & Pint (2003)
- The Last Romance (2005)
- Mad for Sadness Go! Beat 3 May 1999
- The Cunted Circus Private pressing 2003
- Acoustic Request Show Private pressing 2005
Compilations and EPsEdit
- The Girls of Summer EP Chemikal Underground 1997 UK Singles Chart No. 74
- Live Too Many Cooks 1998
- Cherubs EP Go! Beat 1999 UK Budget Albums Chart No. 5
- Singles Bandai 1999
- Fukd ID No. 2 Chemikal Underground 2000
- Quiet Violence Private pressing 2002
- The Shy Retirer EP Chemikal Underground 2003 UK Budget Albums Chart No. 25
- Ten Years of Tears Chemikal Underground 2006
- Scenes of a Sexual Nature Chemikal Underground 2010
- Arab Strap Chemikal Underground 2016
|Year||Release||Album||Label||UK Singles Chart Position|
|1996||"The First Big Weekend"||The Week Never Starts Round Here||Chemikal Underground||-|
|1997||"The Smell of Outdoor Cooking"||'(none)'||Lissys||-|
|"The Clearing"||The Week Never Starts Round Here||Chemikal Underground||-|
|1998||"Here We Go"/"Trippy"||Philophobia||48|
|2000||"To All A Good Night"||(none)||-|
|2001||"Love Detective"||The Red Thread||66|
|2005||"Dream Sequence"||The Last Romance||-|
|"The Shy Retirer"||Monday at The Hug & Pint||Chemikal Underground||-|
|"There Is No Ending"||The Last Romance||Chemikal Underground||-|
- Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 28–29. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
- "Music News and Reviews, Concert Tickets, Videos, Pictures and Free MP3s". Nme.Com. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
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- "Aidan Moffat". Aidan Moffat. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
- The Skinny: Issue 39, December 2008, p. 39
- "Scottish Albums of the Decade #12: Arab Strap - The Red Thread".
- "News | LISTEN: Arab Strap Duo Cover Slow Club". The Quietus. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
- "Malcolm Middleton on his solo debut, touring again, and Arab Strap". WOW247. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 27. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.