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I’m totally fine with it don’t give a fuck anymore

Arab Strap I’m totally fine with it don’t give a fuck anymore

(Rock Action) Rating - 8/10

Though there's a truth to them regaining their second wind, Arab Strap never lost it when they called it a day in 2005. But something felt amiss with The Last Romance, a genuine attempt for the Scottish duo of Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton to aim for a fuller, more tuneful sound despite being steeped in their typical miserabilist humor. Their second album since their 2021 return shares a commonality with Romance in that it follows the aptly-titled As Days Get Dark, opting for more amped-up energy when the latter sounded oblique and murky.

Decking their idiosyncratic brand of post-rock with a warmer, smoky sheen might've been a step in the right direction. If anything, the duo makes a great case to silence anyone disputing that it's hard to care for Arab Strap without Moffat's acerbic narratives. There's a playfulness to their genre-hopping tact, with Moffat fitting his often-loose prose to warped club beats (Bliss), folk twang (Molehills), and 80s-inspired soft-rock (You're Not There). Album opener Allatonceness is their best case yet for repping their label Rock Action, owned by post-rock pioneers Mogwai, bearing a beefed-up muscular riff that expands their sound with emotional force.

Moffat is often direct with his targets, and on I’m fine with it don’t give a fuck anymore, he turns his attention to those leading the charge for man box culture on social media. It's an epidemic impossible to undo for him, expressed with brutal specificity on Bliss. On Haven't You Heard, one of the album's more mellow moments, he's outraged, but not surprised, for anonymous degenerates resorting to being rude online: “There's no true you, just today's persona/Gregarious extrovert/timid loner.” But Moffat doesn't spare himself any humiliation, like on Sociometer Blues, where he describes his phone addiction as a love affair. Shades of the old Arab Strap also reappear on Dreg Queen, a doomed tale of a night out expressed with hopeless drudgery rivaling George Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

Despite his cynical outlook, Moffat tries more than ever to quell the anxiety that lies beneath the surface. He profoundly internalizes these feelings on Turn off the Light, thinking to himself how deep he is in his delusion. Like most of us, Moffat has lost himself with each new click and wishes to turn himself off, so to speak. But off he goes, crumbling in his despair, delivering a rousing anthem that can represent his rise or demise. The answer is never revealed. But Moffat, more than ever, clings to any sign of hope.