On their first album in over a decade, Arab Strap is dark, angry, and disillusion with the world. With songs that often start at social commentary and end at internal reflection, As Days Get Dark is an album that feels starkly modern in its frustration with the world and self. However, the duo’s newest music ultimately feels like a self-congratulatory commitment to darkness, without much to offer beyond twisted storytelling.
Much like past work, Arab Strap’s latest slaps you in the face from the start. The opener, “The Turning of Our Bones,” considers sex and violence with lines such as “let our bodies be awoken” followed by “and then the body bloated.” The song is somewhat intriguing with vocalist Aidan Moffat’s monotone delivery and gloomy lyrics, but really, Moffat isn’t saying anything. Darkness is an aesthetic on the track, presenting little beyond admittedly well-written imagery.
Sex is a common theme on As Days Get Dark. With “Another Clockwork Day,” Moffat is confused by modern trends in porn: “it’s all stepmoms and stepsisters now, what the fuck’s all that about?” Moffat’s middle-aged reflection is a continuation of his early writing which often criticized ideas of masculinity and toxic cultural behaviors. But this time, the singer’s words feel darker when he admits on another track: “I cry at rom-coms…and children’s films.” Moffat is uncomfortably watching the world change while he himself changes, and it scares him.
But quickly, Arab Strap leaves this more compelling story behind when tracks like “Sleeper” arrive. Back to focusing on aesthetic, the song surges with dramatic instrumentals and Moffat’s rumbling vocals. The track tells the blurry story of a train and an undefined but obviously intense journey. Arab Strap seems to think that hints of turmoil are enough to form an impactful song, but with the tracks offered on As Days Get Dark, that’s just not the case.
Arab Strap’s return is often disappointing. Where the duo’s twisted writing was once sharp with intention, it now feels dull and even pointless. When Moffat’s lyrics do settle on a story or critique, the focus is usually an idea that’s well-explored in the punkish lyrics of many modern bands. And without unique revelations nor a particularly exciting approach to sound, As Days Get Dark ultimately feels like little more than an exercise in dark ambiance.