ARAB STRAP with BRIGHT EYES and JESSE HARRIS POSTPONED. REFUNDS AT POINT OF PURCHASE. Rating: NNNNN
This is not a good time to be touring across America in a band called Arab Strap.Even the glum Scottish duo of Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton admit that the potential for unintentional comedy and mistaken identity looms large. At the very least, it should make for a very entertaining trip across the border.
"So far, no one's taken the name very literally," a bleary-eyed Moffat chuckles. "If they do, they're fucking idiots. Then again, anything's possible. At the border we'll just say we're 'entertainers.'"
Entertainment isn't exactly what comes to mind when you think of Arab Strap songs like Fucking Little Bastards and The First Time You're Unfaithful, but compared to what came before, they're pure pop.
The duo's previous work is a series of epically grim records built around Moffat's miserable, sardonic mutterings about relationships that failed catastrophically and nights that ended with blinding, eye-popping hangovers, all set to Middleton's stripped-down guitar and beats.
The Strap's new Monday At The Hug & Pint disc lifts the mood with strings, a more established pop framework and more varied backgrounds. It's not exactly Top Of The Pops material, but it does demonstrate a sunnier disposition, which has even crept into Moffat's increasingly hilarious rants.
"I used to be a right moaning cunt," Moffat snorts. "Now I've figured out that 50 per cent of what happens in a relationship is down to yourself. Some might say I've learned this a bit late in life.
"I certainly had a lot more fun making this record. Arab Strap had all started to feel a bit too much like real work, and one of the reasons we're doing this is to avoid real work. This is still an Arab Strap record - it's just bigger and a bit more sparkly.
"The other important point is that we had a lot of good lunches at a nearby pub, and a good lunch is something you can't take for granted."
The draw of the pub is fitting. The album name and song titles like Meanwhile, At The Bar and A Drunkard Muses aside, alcohol has long played a pivotal role in Arab Strap's music. Moffat's slurred ramblings have always had the tone of a guy spilling his heart in the corner of the boozer.
"The Hug & Pint is an imaginary bar my friend John always thought would be a great place for comfort after a particularly rough weekend," he says. "It's somewhere you could escape to and feel welcome. If this thing ever takes off and we become millionaires, I'll buy it for him."