Monday at the Hug & Pint
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2003, Volume 10, #11
Written by John Metzger
While the world has been busy fussing obsessively over the socio-political soundscapes of Englandís Radiohead, Scotland ever so quietly has been churning out a steady stream of somber Nick Drake-influenced folk-pop. Two of the best-known acts to surface from the region in the past decade have been Belle & Sebastian and Travis, but there are a slew of others lingering just behind, including the equally talented Arab Strap. On its latest outing Monday at the Hug & Pint, the group at least partially abandons the brooding dreaminess that has marked nearly everything recorded by the countryís shoegazer set. Guitars clatter around within the claustrophobic walls of Fucking Little Bastards as percussion and a string section combine to give the song a dull, ominous roar, in turn making it, perhaps, the genreís most thunderous tune since Travisí Blue Flashing Light. Indeed, even the opening drum machine-driven The Shy Retirer gallops along at a perky pace, despite the rainy-day strings that creep around its edges.
Thatís not to say that Arab Strap doesnít continue to churn out its typically sullen anthems: from the off-kilter waltz of Loch Leven to Peep Peepís hypnotic dirge, the group fills Monday at the Hug & Pint with more than its fair share of emotional train wrecks. This time, however, the formula is altered ever so slightly, taking the dreariness of Pink Floyd and Nick Drake and feeding it through The Velvet Undergroundís feedback-fueled shredder with a pinch of Kinks-bred pub rock tossed in for good measure. The end result of this oddball concoction sounds strangely enough like The Pogues on the morning after a massive bender, all bruised and battered, skulking about the house bleating bleary-eyed, half-drunken sentiments filled with gloomy regrets. Granted, this doesnít suit every occasion, but for those wallowing in their own moments of self-pity, itíll do just fine.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box