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Arab Strap

Philophobia With Signed Postcard by Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton

Chemikal Underground

Released: 6th December 2019

2xLP£22.99Out of Stock


Twenty-one years after its initial release, Arab Strap’s second album Philophobia is reissued on vinyl, having been out of print for twenty years.

The 2LP heavyweight vinyl comes in a wide spined sleeve and includes a 320kbps MP3 download card.

Philophobia was recorded on the outskirts of Glasgow in the early incarnation of CHEM19 Studios with engineer/producer Paul Savage & at Cava Studios in Glasgow with engineer Geoff Allan.

Initially released in 1998, it was the follow up to the band’s 1996 debut The Week Never Starts Round Here.

Instrumentally ambitious, Philophobia is adorned with sepulchral guitar, trumpet, cello & Scottish rainfall, providing a most beautiful backdrop to Aidan Moffat’s bold lyrical presentation as he articulates experiences most of us are too embarrassed to even think about; confessional, intimate, insightful and hilarious, ‘Philophobia’ remains a literate & musical revelation.

In 1998, the initial flush of nascent, nervous energy that categorised early releases by Glasgow stalwarts Mogwai, Belle + Sebastian, The Delgados et al. had given way to these bands developing into full fledged artists penning the greatest music of their careers. No other group epitomised this shift better than Arab Strap, the duo of friends Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton.

Formed in Falkirk and quickly channelling their love of Drag City artists like Smog, Palace Brothers and other American post-rock pioneers, Arab Strap's initial recordings were spirited, raggedly beautiful songs that jumped genres. On Philophobia, Arab Strap's second album was a huge leap forward, a stylistically honed and achingly beautiful body of work that had a consistent narrative. The fear of love and intimacy, fallible masculinity and the emotional fallout of sexual encounters both successful and catastrophic all played into a musically accomplished whole. Middleton's contribution through out is masterful, guitar-centric but also bringing in tones from a palette that at times feels celestial. On Here We Go, acoustic guitars interweave with chiming pianos and analog drum machine programming to create a background for Moffat's jealousy-ridden trust issues. On Soaps, a fuller band treatment creates an epic pathos/bathos effect narrating the breakdown of a relationship, the banality of the loss of passion, the sadness of a love disintegrating in real time.

Unlike on their debut The Weekend Never Starts Around Here, 1998's Arab Strap were completely self-assured, stretching out on Philophobia at their own pace. Tracks like New Birds, aching out into 6 mins is flat-out majestic, bass guitar chords uncannily soundtracking the stone in the pit in the narrator's stomach as he contemplates infidelity with an old flame. Moffat's love for the base and profane is of course not rendered purely for effect, it's a poetry based in lived experience, the language of every day sex and love, yet startling all the same. A young boy surreptitiously enjoying the olfactory remnants of an affair strikes with a stark reality while the tragic/comic tale of an illicit romance before a funeral - rendered in Blue Nile "Hats" smoked-out jazz style in the central belt - has a gut punch to it. On Afterwards, long-term collaborator Adele Bethel's close-mic'd vocal contribution is almost too close for home; together the duo's interplay narrates a doomed ritual played out in a million bedrooms before and forever more.

The true beauty of Philophobia is the way it unfurls like a darkly lit melodrama set in a drunken central Scotland film set, the perfect symbiosis of Moffat's verité lyrics and Middleton's sympathetic production and the way the duo created something beautiful out of the ruins of relationship and compromising encounters. Above all, there's a brutal truth and honesty in every song that makes this album and this group something truly unique. There's no hiding from love, no hiding from Philophobia.

‘Philophobia’ - (from Greek "φιλέω-φιλώ" (love) and "φοβία" (phobia)), is the fear of falling in love / emotional attachment.