‘As Days Get Dark’ Review: Arab Strap’s Latest Offers Drab Diction and Lulling Lyrics

Arab Strap’s latest album, “As Days Get Dark,” comes at a depressing time with saddening songs. Featuring a bout of lackluster experimentation, the album doesn’t amount to much despite its intentions.

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Manasa Gudavalli, Alexandra Chan

Arab Strap’s latest album, “As Days Get Dark,” depicts statuesque bodies on its album cover. “As Days Get Dark” is Arab Strap’s first studio album in 16 years. (Staff Photos by Alexandra Chan, Manasa Gudavalli, Staff Illustration by Manasa Gudavalli)

By Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer, Arts Editor

With their latest album, “As Days Get Dark,” Arab Strap doubles down on the thickness of their Scottish brogue while delivering deliberately dreary dance tunes. Fluctuating between sparse strumming, electronic dance beats and morbid lyricism, “As Days Get Dark” stretches itself thin in its attempt at amalgamating disparate sounds, offering 47 long minutes of drab diction accompanied by unsuccessfully experimental instrumental accompaniment.

The album kicks off with Aidan Moffat angrily remarking, “I don’t give a f-ck about the past / Our glory days are gone” before jumping into an abstruse, dance-oriented track about rotting bodies. It’s a strange start to a strange album that tries to find the perfect beat to cry to. Hearkening back to a time when similarily strong-accented singers would profess something along the lines of “heaven knows I’m miserable now,” or “crying for the death of your heart,” to a sultry tune, “As Days Get Dark’s” crooning comes off as a tad too depressing to be cathartic. Furthermore, Arab Strap’s decision to drape the entire album in the same monotone narration renders their attempts at writing poetry pitiful.

Who can blame them? It’s impossible for Arab Strap to escape their accent. And, it’s absurd to harp on them for embracing Scottish morbidity given its unusual commercial and international appeal as featured in the likes of “Trainspotting” and Belle & Sebastian’s greatest hits. What is to blame is Arab Strap’s decision to dwell in the excess of said export as a means of avoiding experimentation. Despite the varying sounds put together across this album’s many songs, they all sound the same. Even worse, Arab Strap’s new album sounds like a regurgitated amalgamation of all their last efforts. As such, “As Days Get Dark” perpetuates the mediocrity that allows it to exist in the first place. 

For all its madness, the album’s over-reliance on foundational poetic techniques like alliteration and rhyming presents it as an easy work of passably predictive musical construction. And yet, it’s the lyricism’s blandness and meticulous arrangement that shines through even amongst the distracting attempts of experimental sound. And yet, digesting the album’s lyrics, a meticulous devotion to its arrangement announces itself. It’s almost as if the album was prearranged, or perhaps, so rough in its etching that it required further editing to arrive at a more digestible plane. Point being, it sounds like a baked version of Destroyer that lacks poetic immediacy and loses itself in attempting to allegorize the mundane. 

Melodramatic and confused, “As Days Get Dark” fails to entertain. And, for an album that seeks to transcend entertainment, the fact that it dispels listeners by virtue of its singer’s apparent disinterest in singing is quite sad. Arab Strap were once pioneers, now they’re just prosaic. 

Arab Strap’s experiments in impressionistic writing have reached a degree of superfluousness that renders their expressions entirely abstract. This inhibits their songs from producing the emotional alignment most people seek in music. And, because Arab Strap’s tunes are so warped this time around, the ability to lean on the beat of the drum instead of the singer’s lyrics. “As Days Get Dark,” plays like a test you walked into unprepared: it forces you to sit with its complications despite your inability to make anything out of them. 

In the album’s penultimate song, Moffat sings for the “the dejected, the deserted, and the drunk,” and suddenly, “As Days Get Dark” makes perfect sense. It’s for the disinterested with the penmanship of a misanthrope. It’s Scotland as told by the survivors of its heavy nightlife. It’s for those who are too hungover to pick another album because they’re too busy lying on their couch while recovering. Arab Strap’s latest appears trapped in a vicious cycle of dreariness, yearning for something to spark amidst its failed experiments. 

Email Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer at [email protected]