Elephant Shoe

Love in Falkirk: it's paranoid. Not only is it paranoid, it's possessive and sadistic with a mushy centre to its gloomy ol' grizzly bear exterior....

Love in Falkirk: it’s paranoid. Not only is it paranoid, it’s possessive and sadistic with a mushy centre to its gloomy ol’ grizzly bear exterior. Anyone seeking to write a [I]Guide To Loving Relationships[/I] self-help book for the 20-something bloke would do well to peruse Strap diarist Aidan Moffat‘s third outpouring of fly-on-the-duvet vignettes.

After the first love hangover of ’96’s ‘The Week Never Starts Round Here’ and the grim rebound shagger tales of ’98’s ‘Philophobia’, the third Strap opus settles in for a long, forlorn session of, help, ‘going steady’ introspection.

This is not a record for those accused of ‘problems with commitment’. Moffat, guitarist Malcolm Middleton, bassist Gary Miller and drummer David Gow might have jumped labels but they have not lightened up. The atmospheres that surround Moffat‘s murmurs are as claustrophobic as ever and a deluxe finish to the DIY stirrings of beatbox’n’guitar does nothing to lessen the melancholy in the tales of ordinary sadness.

Once you’ve tiptoed past the intimate sleeve photo of a sleeping girl, you’re immediately in bed with Moffat as, “The walls breathe, we’re locked in tight”, and an asthmatic techno pattern gives a sarcastic, post-clubbing feel to the E-aftermath narrative of ‘Cherubs’. The doors are closed, the blinds pulled, so cuddle the pillow and gently weep.

The ‘rude word’ shock tactics of earlier tunes are less prominent on ‘Elephant Shoe’, but the honesty is still brutal. Against the morose breakbeats of ‘One Four Seven One’, Moffat paints himself as terrorised by jealousy. Then in the magnificently textured, bleakly ambient centrepiece songs ‘Pyjamas’ and ‘Autumnal’, we find him wrapped in dejection while his partner snores, musing disconsolately on a future of kids, coupledom and meeting old friends at funerals.

Those who have not by this point run from the room to ditch their bird/bloke and buy a Vengaboys T-shirt might be surprised to find that ‘Leave The Day Free’ is virtually angst-free, as is the shockingly blithe ‘Tanned’, featuring a saxophone (!) and Moffat‘s suspiciously flat evocation of a “happy, tanned and pissed” holiday in Greece.

Of course, the tan and good humour fade, and in ‘Pro-(Your)Life’ he picks at his most private mental wounds – “Now you always say terminated, I never hear you say aborted”.

There is no question mark over the efficacy of the Strap‘s listless still-lives. Resigned, repressed and beautifully detailed, ‘Elephant Shoe’ crawls confidently towards the lugubrious spirituality of your Tindersticks, Caves, Waits and MacGowans. It’ll sit nicely at the ultra-sad end of the CD rack, but if you have to listen to it more than twice a year, you should definitely drink less, get out more and consider relationship counselling.