Arab Strap were an indie rock band from Scotland that consisted of core members 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 and 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.
Vocalist Aidan Moffat and multi-instrumentalist Malcolm Middleton grew up in Falkirk, Scotland 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) as well as their love of cheap alcohol. They began collaborating in 1995, and their debut album The Week Never Starts Round Here was released the following year.
Over the course of their ten-year existence Arab Strap worked with a number of musicians including Jenny Reeve and Stacey Sievewright, as well as Adele Bethel and David Gow who went on to form Sons and Daughters. Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian featured on the album Philophobia, but the 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, some of 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 which drew deeply on both indie and dance music.
Arab Strap's first two albums, The Week Never Starts Around Here (1996) and Philophobia (1998), made clear the band's ability to capture the desperate decadence of post-Thatcherite Britain. The Week Never Starts Around Here's standout song is "The First Big Weekend," a five-minute piece of drunken mayhem which hints at some of the band's finest later moments. The joyous singalong at the end of the song, "Went out for a weekend, lasted forever / Got high with our friends, it's officially summer," was the chorus to "Hey!Fever," one of the tracks on the EP The Girls of Summer. The 1999 live album, Mad for Sadness, is the finest album of this period, demonstrating 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 brooding, spare sound but is instrumental in nature. Malcolm Middleton also has a solo career under his own name. His first two solo albums, including the critically acclaimed 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine were released by Chemikal Underground. He is now signed to Full Time Hobby Records, and released his third album, A Brighter Beat, on 27 February 2007 and his fourth album, Sleight of Heart, in 2008. In 2009, he released his fifth studio album, Waxing Gibbous.
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, entitled 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.
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?"
- The Week Never Starts Round Here (1996)
- Philophobia (1998) UK Albums Chart #37
- Elephant Shoe (1999)
- The Red Thread (2001)
- Monday at the Hug and 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 EPs
- The Girls of Summer EP Chemikal Underground 1997 UK Singles Chart #74
- Live Too Many Cooks 1998
- Cherubs EP Go! Beat 1999 UK Budget Albums Chart #5
- Singles Bandai 1999
- Fukd ID #2 Chemikal Underground 2000
- Quiet Violence Private pressing 2002
- The Shy Retirer EP Chemikal Underground 2003 UK Budget Albums Chart #25
- Ten Years Of Tears Chemikal Underground 2006
|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"||(none)||Self-release||-|
|"There Is No Ending"||The Last Romance||Chemikal Underground||-|
Biography from Wikipedia