THE RED THREAD
ALBUM CHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND RELEASE:
FEBRUARY 26, 2001 REVIEW: MARCH 27, 2001
"Tainted Love". It may have been Soft Cell who brought those words out to the
world, but Arab Strap personify them. Tainted love, and perhaps even more,
Four albums into their career, and singer Aidan Moffat still seems to have
an infinite amount of sins to get off his chest, and the music is his
confession booth. If the porn jazz of single "Love Detective" made you think
Arab Strap had gone all upbeat on us, it will only take a few seconds of
album opener "Amor Veneris" to make you think again.
Their last album
"Elephant Shoe" was like one drunken whisper, quiet, restrained and
staggering. Compared to that, "The Red Thread" is both more direct and
more experimental. But just as wonderfully miserable.
Moffat half-sings about suffocating relationships, bad sex, drunken sex, sex
with the wrong person, jealousy, alcohol, guilt, and any of the above in
combination with the other. In contrast, the music is beautiful, especially
Malcolm Middleton's vibrant, lingering guitar, but can also be threateningly
dark. Just listen to the ghostly, haunted cry of the noisy dub echoes of
Much of Arab Strap's strength lies in their way of letting
the small gestures do the most of the talking, while suddenly juxtaposing
them with more orchestral movements. And the way a grandiose piano enters
"Amor Veneris", just to be faced with Moffat singing unglamourous lines like
"It's best in the morning/When we know it won't be rushed/So leave the
curtains closed/And come back when you've brushed" is perversely humourous.
Arab Strap is one of the few pillars of deep misery there's left to lean on,
for us who have thought that The Cure's latest albums have been a bit thin
and can't stand the contrived melodrama and selfconscious pompousness of the
goth scene, and that makes them invaluable.