Lets get this straight from the start, there are two types of people, those who love Arab Strap and those who just don’t get why a bunch of moaning Scottish alcoholics should be held in such high esteem. Well I guess if you’re one of the latter then this review isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference and to be honest if you haven’t embraced the beauty of the ’Strap by now then you never will.
For the rest of you still reading, ‘Monday at the Hug & Pint’ sees Arab Strap continue the rich vein of maudlin form they found on the glorious ‘Red Thread’. If anything, this record surpasses their last effort. The band has somehow managed to capture even more beauty, anguish and bitterness in each note and every mumbled sentence.
Opener, and future single, ‘The Shy Retirer’ starts with the trade-mark lo-fi/too pissed to programme drum beat, subtle string arrangements weaving themselves around Moffat’s (almost optimistic) slurred lyrics "…I lost my social skills a while ago, but now I feel them coming back…" and the genius "…You know I’m always moanin’, but you jump start my serotonin…"_ It’s a great start to a wonderful album, which will pull at those heart strings and slowly work its way into your head, just what you need to remind you why this band is so special.
By the time we get to ‘Fucking Little Bastards’, the band are in no mood to fuck about and show us their angriest side yet. A mesh of evil, distorted guitars, pounding beats and poisoned slurred lyrics which eventually explode into a wave of crashing cymbals, distortion and strings before falling away to barely audible lo-fi mumblings. As I said if you love Arab Strap… this is perfect.
Musically the band have expanded their sound with members of Mogwai and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) also contributing to the record. We even get a cut-up looping bagpipe interlude for the track ‘Loch Leven’! Lyrically Moffat is on fine form, often stripping down his lyrics rather than the long narratives of old. It's nice to see that even on their 5th album the band are still challenging and still changing.
Arab Strap - like the girl in the pub who you wouldn’t look at twice but with each pint gets better and better until the end of the night when you declare your undying love.