Arab Strap

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Arab Strap
OriginFalkirk, Scotland
GenresSlowcore, indie rock, alternative rock, post-rock
Years active1995–2006; 2011; 2016–present
LabelsChemikal Underground, Rock Action Records
MembersAidan Moffat
Malcolm Middleton

Arab Strap are a Scottish indie rock band whose core members are Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton.[1] The band were signed to independent record label Chemikal Underground, split in 2006 and reformed in 2016. The band signed to Rock Action Records in 2020.


Vocalist and drummer Aidan Moffat and multi-instrumentalist Malcolm Middleton grew up in Falkirk, Scotland,[2] and bonded over their mutual love for Drag City recording artists such as Will Oldham (who at the time recorded under the name Palace Brothers) and Smog. They began collaborating in 1995, and their debut album, The Week Never Starts Round Here, was released the following year. At this point Gary Miller and David Gow joined the band and became the rhythm section, creating a more dynamic live experience when the band started touring.[2]

Over the course of their ten-year existence Arab Strap worked with numerous musicians, including Jenny Reeve and Stacey Sievewright, as well as Adele Bethel, who went on to form Sons and Daughters. Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian featured on the album Philophobia, but the Belle & Sebastian album/song "The Boy with the Arab Strap" would later create something of a feud between Moffat and Murdoch.

Arab Strap's marked characteristics include sordid, personal, yet honest, lyrics – described by the NME as "fly on the duvet vignettes".[3] Like fellow Scottish band The Proclaimers, their lyrics are sung in their native Scots tongue.[4] At first essentially an electro-acoustic band with a brooding, spare sound, later albums and gigs saw them develop a fuller sound that drew deeply on both indie and dance music.

Arab Strap's first two albums, The Week Never Starts Around Here (1996) and Philophobia (1998), depicted the desperate decadence of post-Thatcherite Britain. The former album's "The First Big Weekend", a five-minute piece of drunken mayhem that end with a joyous singalong, "Went out for a weekend, lasted forever / Got high with our friends, it's officially summer," which was later also used as the chorus to "Hey!Fever," one of the tracks on the EP The Girls of Summer the following year. The 1999 live album, Mad for Sadness, demonstrated how the sometimes spare recorded sound of their early music could lift into a celebration of a sexually empty, drug- and alcohol-dependent life. After these albums, Arab Strap's music became much more musically polished, but continued to focus on drink, drugs, and existentially bereft versions of sexuality.

In keeping with the theme of sexual allusion, Moffat records as a solo artist under the name Lucky Pierre (later changed to L Pierre)[5] – slang for the man in the middle of a gay threesome. This work is also characterised by a brooding, spare sound, but is instrumental in nature. Middleton also has a solo career under his own name, releasing two albums with Chemikal Underground and three more via Full Time Hobby Records.

On 9 September 2006, the band announced on their website that they were to split up[citation needed]. They celebrated the ten years since their first studio album with the release of a compilation record, Ten Years of Tears. They went on tour in Europe for the last time at the end of the year, and played their final show at the end of a secret tour of Japan at Shibuya O-Nest on 17 December 2006.

Post-breakup and 2016 reunion[edit]

In a 2008 interview, Middleton stated: "It was a good time to call it a day. Unless there's a definite need and desire for us to play, I don't think we should ever get back together. We always said we would [collaborate again] when we split up, but I think maybe it's still too soon. Maybe in a few years when we've got time, we'll maybe try something for a laugh. Who knows?"[6]

In December 2009, Monday at the Hug & Pint, The Red Thread and The Last Romance entered The Skinny's "Scottish Albums of the Decade" list at no. 7, 12 and 25 respectively.[7]

In April 2010, the Scenes of a Sexual Nature box-set was released, featuring early albums, live recordings, and a newly recorded track. The following year Moffat and Middleton released a cover version of Slow Club's new single, "Two Cousins", under the name "Two Cousins 1999". Moffat noted, "It’s not an Arab Strap performance as such, rather it’s the two guys who used to be Arab Strap recording their own, informed pastiche".[8] On 17 November 2011, the band reformed for a one-off show as part of Glasgow venue Nice N Sleazy's 20th birthday celebrations.

In an interview in April 2013, Middleton said that he would be open to the idea of future gigs, but cast doubt on any more Arab Strap records: "I think, with Arab Strap, it was good at the time. But we could only write songs of that ilk at a certain age. So I don't think we'll ever record again but it might be good to do a gig".[9]

On 11 June 2016 a new website for the band was revealed with a countdown and a lone statement, "Hello Again", teasing a reformation. Arab Strap confirmed on 15 June that they have reformed for three shows at London's Electric Brixton, Manchester's O2 Ritz and Glasgow's Barrowlands Ballroom, all scheduled for October, marking the band's 20th anniversary. With this announcement, the band released a new version of their debut single, titled "The First Big Weekend of 2016", as remixed by Miaoux Miaoux. They later added a second date in Glasgow (after the first one sold out in under half an hour) and a warm-up date in Newcastle. A string of festival dates in 2017 followed.

In August 2019, ahead of the release of his third studio album as Human Don't Be Angry, Middleton's website updated to state that they "[were] currently working on a new album for release in 2020".[10] On 1 September 2020 the band issued their first new material in 15 years, with the release of the single "The Turning Of Our Bones", which is reported to be the A-side of an upcoming 7". The B-side of the single is to be called "The Jumper".

On 24 November 2020 the band announced their new album, As Days Get Dark, their first in 16 years.

On 17 February 2021 Arab Strap released the music video for "Here Comes Comus!". The controversial music video was directed by Bryan M. Ferguson.[11]

On 5 March 2021 Arab Strap released their new album, As Days Get Dark.[12]


Arab Strap discography
Studio albums7
Live albums3
Compilation albums4

Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions

The Week Never Starts Round Here
  • Released: 20 April 1998
  • Label: Chemikal Underground (#CHEM21)
34 92 37 3
Elephant Shoe
  • Released: 13 September 1999
  • Label: Go! Beat (#547805)
59 79
The Red Thread
  • Released: 26 February 2001
  • Label: Chemikal Underground (#CHEM050)
86 77 125 16
Monday at the Hug & Pint
  • Released: 21 April 2003
  • Label: Chemikal Underground (#CHEM065)
43 150 120 12
The Last Romance
  • Released: 17 October 2005
  • Label: Chemikal Underground (#CHEM082)
68 199 22
As Days Get Dark
  • Released: 5 March 2021
  • Label: Rock Action
1 14 3
"—" denotes items that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Live albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions
Mad for Sadness
  • Released: 3 May 1999
  • Label: Go! Beat (#547387)
96 138
The Cunted Circus
  • Released: 2003
  • Label: Arab Strap self-released (#ASC001)
Acoustic Request Show
  • Released: 2005
  • Label: Arab Strap self-released (#ASC002)
Primavera Sound: Live in Barcelona
  • Released: 2020
  • Label: Arab Strap self-released (no Cat#)
"—" denotes items that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Compilation albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions

Singles By Arab Strap
  • Released: 21 February 1999 (Japan only)
  • Label: Bandai Music (#APCY-8473)
Ten Years of Tears
  • Released: 23 October 2006
  • Label: Chemikal Underground (#CHEM095)
Scenes Of A Sexual Nature
  • Released: 17 April 2010
  • Label: Chemikal Underground (#CHEM134)
Arab Strap
  • Released: 30 September 2016
  • Label: Chemikal Underground (#CHEM244)
"—" denotes items that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Extended plays[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions







The Girls of Summer
  • Released: 1 September 1997
  • Label: Chemikal Underground (#CHEM017)
43 74
  • Released: April 1998
  • Label: Too Many Cooks (#BROTH001)
  • Released: 23 August 1999
  • Label: Go! Beat (#561263)
58 5
Fukd ID #2
  • Released: 13 November 2000
  • Label: Chemikal Underground
Quiet Violence
  • Released: 2002
  • Label: Arab Strap self-released (#ASTRIP001)
The Shy Retirer
  • Released: 15 September 2003
  • Label: Chemikal Underground (CHEM067)
25 34
  • Released: 12 February 2006
  • Label: Chemikal Underground (#CHEM086)
92 46
"—" denotes items that did not chart or were not released in that territory.


Year Title Peak chart positions Album

1996 "The First Big Weekend" The Week Never Starts Round Here
1997 "The Clearing" 100 184
"The Smell of Outdoor Cooking" Non-album single
1998 "Here We Go/Trippy" 32 48 5 Philophobia
"(Afternoon) Soaps" 48 74 11
2000 "To All A Good Night" Non-album single
2001 "Love Detective" 65 66 14 The Red Thread
"Turbulence" (mixes) 92 81 16
2005 "Dream Sequence" 90 The Last Romance
2006 "There Is No Ending"
2020 "The Turning of Our Bones" 12 As Days Get Dark
2021 "Here Comes Comus!"
"Fable of The Urban Fox"
2022 "Aphelion" Non-album single
"—" denotes items that did not chart or were not released in that territory.


  1. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 28–29. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  2. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Nineties Music (First ed.). Virgin Books. p. 22. ISBN 0-7535-0427-8.
  3. ^ "Music News and Reviews, Concert Tickets, Videos, Pictures and Free MP3s". Nme.Com. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  4. ^ Kevin Williamson (2009). "Language and culture in a rediscovered Scotland" (PDF). In Mark Perryman (ed.). Breaking up Britain: Four nations after a Union. Lawrence and Wishart. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-905007-96-7. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  5. ^ "Aidan Moffat". Aidan Moffat. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  6. ^ The Skinny: Issue 39, December 2008, p. 39
  7. ^ "Scottish Albums of the Decade #12: Arab Strap – The Red Thread".
  8. ^ "News | LISTEN: Arab Strap Duo Cover Slow Club". The Quietus. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  9. ^ "Malcolm Middleton on his solo debut, touring again, and Arab Strap". WOW247. 26 April 2013. Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  10. ^ "Home". Malcolm Middleton. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  11. ^ "The Quietus | News | PREMIERE: Arab Strap Share Video For 'Here Comes Comus!'". The Quietus. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  12. ^ "Arab Strap – 'As Days Get Dark' review: a superbly seedy career-best". NME. 3 March 2021. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  13. ^ Scottish studio albums chart peaks:
  14. ^ European studio albums chart peaks:
  15. ^ "French chart peaks". Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  16. ^ a b c d e f UK chart peaks:
  17. ^ UK independent album chart peaks:
  18. ^ Scottish live albums chart peaks:
  19. ^ Scottish studio albums chart peaks:
  20. ^ UK independent album chart peaks:
  21. ^ Scottish albums extended plays chart peaks:
  22. ^ Scottish singles extended plays chart peaks:
  23. ^ UK independent albums extended plays chart peaks:
  24. ^ UK independent albums extended plays chart peaks:
  25. ^ Scottish singles chart peaks:
  26. ^ UK independent singles chart peaks:

External links[edit]