Music Reviews
Ten Years Of Tears

Arab Strap Ten Years Of Tears

(Chemikal Underground) Rating - 9/10

Arab Strap? They did that one single that was on the Evening Session for a while, right? Haven't heard of them in a while. Me neither, so when the news was announced that Arab Strap were going their separate ways, I wasn't all that bothered. I took a listen to That Single, The First Big Weekend though (which for a while held a record for longest regular play-listing on Radio One), and before you know it Arab Strap splitting was bad news indeed.

So why is this? What is it about Arab Strap that has devastated their fans? Well why don't you take a listen to this farewell retrospective and find out, because it turns out that Arab Strap are in fact a wonderfully diverse, fascinating and above all passionate pairing, purveying downbeat, frank, sometimes brutally honest tales of everyday life and romance. Their music has a kind of melancholy that whiny Americans can't seem to capture, a sort of realism that every ordinary bloke would recognise, if he looked deep enough inside himself.

Let's start with The First Big Weekend, shall we? A tale of, quite literally, the first big weekend of the summer, narrated in a gloomy Falkirk brogue, depicting the ups and downs of indie discos, 24-hour cafes and the Simpsons. It's a basic song, just some acoustic guitar and an insistent kick-drum beat, but there's something about the delivery that rips your heart out. No histrionics here, no emo anguish, just good old fashioned stiff upper lip with a heartbreaking undercurrent that, at times, it seems only the Scots can do properly. When one line, a simple "I shouldnae a bothered" can cause almost physical heartache, you know there's something pretty deep right there.

This mood permeates the record, and indeed the band's wider oeuvre; a kind of dusty romance, and a drawled, close-up delivery that cuts to your heart. That's not to say that each track has a standard sound, really; the Strap have a range running from punk to disco to ballad and back again, but it's all pretty heart-rending however the tune comes out. The stark acoustics of Packs Of Three, for example, belie the incredibly explicit words, and the house-y beat of Rocket, Take Your Turn serves as an unusual backing to a slightly creepy, slightly uncomfortable song.

So, that's your introduction to Arab Strap. Is it ever worth getting a best of compilation though? In this case, most definitely. The majority of tracks are alternate edits, re-records, acoustic versions, live recordings, demos, or remixes or something like that, with full anecdotal liner notes (finally! A band that does them properly!), in all giving a complete guide to what should be an essential band that flew just a little under the wider radar, that cut maybe a little too deep, a little too specifically to gain that wider acceptance.