Arab Strap Monday At The Hug & Pint

It was beginning to seem like Arab Strap had painted themselves into a corner, peddling their own particular brand of filth. Yet the release of their fifth album has seen the band undergoing a rebirth of sorts that makes them shiny and new. Quite simply, Monday At The Hug & Pint is their finest album to date because they’ve managed to find the perfect balance between the sordid and the lovely. Thankfully they still lean towards the seedier side of love, but they do so with a focus that they’ve only previously hinted at. Initially it might seem that not much has changed — vocalist Aidan Moffat is still mumbling his brutally honest lyrics in his broad Scottish brogue, but short of calling one song "Fucking Little Bastards,” the band seem to have moved past at least some of their earlier bitterness. The music is more fully developed than ever before. Many of the songs feature strings and more ornate arrangements that sometimes make things sound a lot more beautiful than they really are. But behind it all is a wonderful sense of humour, typified by "The Week Never Starts Round Here” where Moffat confesses "Easy come, easy go, kiss a girl, then write a song,” making it sound like the mantra that he lives his life by, yet always keeping his tongue firmly in his cheek. Some things, thankfully, will never change. (Matador)