Arab Strap Elephant Shoe (Jetset), Arab Strap Mad for Sadness (Jetset)

Elephant Shoe, and Mad for Sadness (Jetset)

Record Reviews

Arab Strap

Elephant Shoe (Jetset)

Arab Strap

Mad for Sadness (Jetset)

One of the lingering images of SXSW 98 was Aidan Moffett, lead mumbler of Arab Strap, with his back to the Electric Lounge crowd at that year's Matador showcase, head bowed in a disconsolate, drunken stupor. Behind him, his Glaswegian compadres were jamming on an extended skull-thumping bassline that served as the climax to Moffett's single-malt-soaked slurrings about harlots and infidelity. Two years later, Mad for Sadness, documenting a live show from London that same year, has washed up on these shores like a newly discovered page from the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom manuscript. Released in a double whammy with Elephant Shoe, the group's third studio album, Mad for Sadness features Moffett in his most devilish elaborations on betrayal, aimless shagging, and the fetid stench of relationships gone sour. Seems that Scottish love songs aren't all shiny and glittery: Arab Strap is the anti-Belle & Sebastian. Despite Moffett's naked, ugly truths, however, the musical backdrop is often soft and delicate, though still bleak. In the studio, the group utilizes cold, mechanized beats to complement Moffett's desolation, making Elephant Shoe a dark, frigid bedroom that reeks of false hope. Still, a glimmer of sunlight peeks through the blinds every now and again with the promise of absolution. Live, the band sounds absolutely crisp and vital on Sadness, fountains of fuzz bursting from the emotional dam during the turbulent, driven "Girls of Summer" and the aforementioned "New Birds," which underscores the rocky tempest of this sick, twisted thing Arab Strap calls love.

(Elephant Shoe) ***

(Mad for Sadness) ****

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