ALBUM REVIEW: Arab Strap – I’m totally fine with it👍don’t give a fuck anymore👍 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Rock Action
Released: 10.05.24

 

 

 

 

 

 

With reformations now commonplace and new music increasingly an expectation, more and more acts are experiencing a second wind sustainability problem. Having returned with one of their finest ever records in 2021’s As Days Get Dark, Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton now find themselves with the same quandary experienced (with mixed results) by fellow ‘90s veterans Slowdive, Sleater-Kinney and Ride: how to maintain momentum and relevance once the glow of the glorious comeback has worn off.

Seemingly conscious of its predicament, I’m totally fine… is defined above all by its determination to resist rehashing old ground. It’s still a record which sounds singularly and unmistakably like Arab Strap, yet one propelled by the whims of its creators rather than any temptation to play to a crowd – be it old-timers or new generations swept up by their resurgence.

Certainly, the electronic experimentation that’s formed a key component in their makeup ever since The First Big Weekend is embraced like never before – from the seductive throb of lead single Bliss to glitched-up standouts Summer Season and Strawberry Moon. For all the embellishments and alt. pop flourishes, however, it’s Moffat’s razor-focused lyrical gaze which carves this eighth effort a unique place in the Strap discography. Ever the chronicler of secret lives played out behind closed doors, here he delves into the cold anonymity and squalid depths of online discourse; a culmination of his latter-day tilt from self-reference to wider sociopolitical and technological commentary. It’s a record where limitless possibilities collide with lived reality, where everybody from “self-righteous, self-styled renegades” to “groomers, grifters, Nazis and rapists” squabble for supremacy, sucking the oxygen which once supplied the pillars of compassion, fact and nuance.

It’s a characteristically bleak picture, but it’s the simmering undercurrent of anger which makes these some of Moffat’s darkest turns to date – compounded by an evident love and openness towards spaces which now feel tainted. It’s a headspace epitomised by the album’s unwieldly title, as well as its supreme opening numbers: “You’d think I’d riot. You’d think I’d cry. Instead I sit here fucking numb” Moffat laments on Allatonceness, before Bliss’ damning final verdict: “We built another world, but history and hate prevail”.

 

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