ARAB STRAP / MAGOO
Birmingham Flapper & Firkin
Magoo are shy. They hide behind closed eyes, crossed legs, lank hair. There is really no need, however, as they play incredibly short, highly-strung bursts of songs which are both fascinating and humourous.
Arab Strap, on the other hand are slow, confessional, sombre. They too have a deeply ingrained sense of humour, only theirs is wry and obsessed with the minutae of life and, more often, love. They know on the one hand how fickle girls can be and, on the other, how it is impossible to live without them. I forgot to ring Laura tonight, confesses Aidan, get someone to ring her and play her this song... No dont, he laughs it off.
There is a certain voyeuristic element to the Arab Strap experience. When, in Blood, he bemoans I wish it was it was someone elses/ blood on the johnnie the honesty becomes almost too much to bear and again in the Smog-like One Day, After School the bitterly spat ...but she came away with some pish about still being friends.... You get the impression that life hasnt exactly been kind to dear old Aidan and that its not likely to get much better. Still, an ironic kind of humour is better than no humour at all and at certain points during the evening, you get the strange impression that everyone in the room is either splitting up or getting together with each other, such is the emotional potency of the guy with the beard at the front of the stage mumbling something about his love life.
It is unusual with Arab Strap that the words carry across much more than the music but then theyre not your usual kind of band. Thankfully, not every front-person is prepared to put their heart, soul and sexual experiences on the line, but when it happens, you cannot help but be drawn in, sometimes appalled but also somehow relieved. Thatll be that weird old human condition thing again, then.