Arab Strap - Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, Glasgow, Thu 17 Nov 2011 (4 stars)

Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton deliver stripped down back catalogue

Arab Strap, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, Glasgow, Thu 17 Nov

As if anyone would have called their band ‘William Harness’ anyway. That was the not-so-secret moniker Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton chose to add deniability to the fact they were getting the old band back together here, even if it was just for one hour in tribute to the twentieth birthday of venerable Glasgow gigging ‘n’ drinking institution Nice ‘n’ Sleazy. Moffat’s been a customer for each of those years, and from Middleton’s point of view, ‘if any more pubs in Glasgow have a birthday coming up and a free bar for us, feel free to ask.’

Support came from RM Hubbert and The Twilight Sad, and the latter – playing a short but resonant acoustic set – seemed to have Moffat and Middleton pegged. ‘(Playing this show is) a highlight of ours,’ they said, ‘so thank you to Aidan and Malcolm - you're probably at the bar.’"

So it was an understated trip down memory lane, and what struck most was just how much these songs seemed tied to a certain time and place. Timeless in isolation, of course, but Moffat’s one-time vitriol about ‘a famous harlot in this town’ on ‘Packs of Three’ or a ‘fickle disco tart’ in the lyric of ‘Blood’, or ‘Here We Go’s musing on whether ‘you've ever really wanted two men at once’- all were leavened by Middleton’s delicate, almost folky treatment and Moffat’s own head-shaking, semi-serious disapproval at some of his own lyrics.

‘What a thing to call somebody,’ he tutted when stumbling over the word ‘pig’ in ‘The First Big Weekend’, its lyrics recalled from a sheet rather than memory. Yet Moffat isn’t so tender a soul that he can’t single out one mid-song talker and urge them to ‘shut the fuck up’ in no uncertain terms, in the process revealing his previously unrevealed ambition to be a teacher (‘but I don’t think I’ve got the temperament’). ‘We wrote these songs as boys,’ he joked after the sad lament of ‘Serenade’, ‘but we bring them to you tonight as men.’ It’s funny because it’s true.

Love Detective by Arab Strap

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