Strap is touring with Omaha phenomenon Bright Eyes in support of
their new full-length, Monday at the Hug & Pint, released
in April by indie rock powerhouse label Matador Records. Like past
Arab Strap efforts, the CD is earmarked by Middleton's eclectic
instrumentation that rocks as much as it wisps, and Moffett's tales
of failure, despair and self-loathing seen through the half-closed
eyes of a tired, drunken poet.
The CD is a collection
of snarly scoot-a-long trip-hop, droll feedback-laden head trips
and lilting strolls through a dark mire of ethnic folk. It opens
with the poppy electronic drums and strings of "The Shy Retirer,"
where Moffat spits out lines of self-hate and longing from the floor
of a crowded Euro-disco: "Look at us just stand and stare,
look at them just pose and pout / And we'll all be standing here
until the pigs chuck us out."
Blend that with the wall
of My-Bloody-Valentine grind guitars and circle-of-doom tribal drums
of "Fucking Little Bastards," where Moffat angrily disowns
his old friends who know him too well: "They've scrutinized
the mistakes I've been making / They know who I've fucked, they
know what I've taken / They've seen me in the shower with shit down
my legs / They've seen me searching a stranger's house for dregs."
Just when things begin
to get a little too bleak, along come the pipes of "Loch Leven"
to stir up Brigadoon-esque visions of the Scottish homeland, only
to be quickly dashed by Moffett's description of superstores and
car alarms. Monday at the Hug & Pint is 13 dark images
captured in Middleton and Moffat's mirrored reflection, stark and
unbearable in its loneliness, but far too inviting to look away.
Middleton said there
was no "master plan" behind the new recording. "The
Red Thread (their previous full-length) was really dark,"
he said. "We wanted something fun this time, and we wanted
to make sure each song was more fun to play."
He called the bagpipes
and violin on "Lock Leven" "totally cheesy and over
"We thought about
dropping it, but left it in. We thought it could slow the CD down
too much. We don't perform it live, but are thinking of using it
as an intro track before our set."
Middleton said the tour
with Bright Eyes has been a change of pace from their usual performances.
"We've been playing these all-ages shows and weren't prepared
for the screaming girls," he said. "It was quite a change,
and much more noticeable from our other gigs. It's a good chance
to get our music out to a different audience."
The Arab Strap / Bright
Eyes connection goes back a couple years. Both bands share the same
publicist in Britain and have toured together before, with Bright
Eyes as the opener. Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis even
put in guest appearances on a couple Hug & Pint tracks.
The two bands shared
a classic road moment April 12 in Pomona, California, when Oberst
sang "Happy Birthday" to Moffett from stage in honor of
his 30th birthday. In return, Moffat walked onto the stage and gave
Oberst more than a friendly peck on the cheek. "
me a prude so I snogged him," Moffat said in his tour diary,
"and for a brief moment I was the envy of at least 550 fawning
lassies. Seriously, I love that boy, and his tongue's fucking HUGE."
the evening well. "We're thinking of maybe making their kiss
a regular part of the act," he said.