Album Reviews

20 Years Later: The Cherubs EP by Arab Strap

I honestly believe cognitive dissonance exists in music. Post rock, in particular, is strife with this inner angst.

Albeit not post rock, elements exist in “Pulled” off Arab Strap‘s Cherubs EP from 1999. And you can hear it: It’s a sound conveyed both in the instrumentation as well as in Aidan Moffat’s lyrics.

I’m trying to sleep, but I’m staring and I’m thinking…
And you and him are drinking
I’m glad that I’m going
That I’ll soon be away

There are exorbitant levels of anxiety within, which, in many ways are counterintuitive to Moffat’s seemingly monotone drunken whisper-singing. And it all gets capitalized in the post-rock instrumentation on “Pulled”.

The lyrics, the vocals, the instrumentation, they all work together to adequately become an audible representation of insomnia, of a mind far too active to sleep.

Arab Strap Cherubs EP Inner Sleeve

20 Year Anniversary

August marked the 20th Anniversary of the Cherubs EP from Arab Strap, the 12″ (which recently found its way into my collection) having a release date of August 23, 1999.

Twenty years, and I’m just one year into truly being an Arab Strap fan. What the hell was I thinking?!?

Arab Strap Cherubs EP Vinyl

The Influence of Arab Strap

Melodic instrumentation and off-key vocals. Not what you’d typically deem an influential artist, but there’s substantially more to Arab Strap than that trite statement. The lyrics are fantastic, the melodies overpowering with emotion, and the vocals gripping.

Oddly enough, you can hear post rock masters like Mogwai in “Pulled”–in particular, the closing track “We’re No Here” off their 2006 LP Mr. Beast. It’s not replicating, but the guitar is reminiscent.

Did Mogwai draw upon a song like Pulled in their creation of “We’re No Here”? Unlikely, the the similarity is there nonetheless.

Stuart Murdoch did reference the band in the title of Belle & Sebastian‘s 1998 LP The Boy with the Arab Strap. Wikipedia notes:

The inspiration for the album’s name came from the band Arab Strap, who are also from Scotland and briefly toured with Belle & Sebastian. An arab strap is a sexual device for retaining an erection, a fact unknown to Stuart Murdoch at the time. Arab Strap were reportedly less than pleased with their inclusion in the title of the album.

Cherubs: A Single from Elephant Shoe

Arab Strap Cherubs EP Back Cover

Like “Pulled”, “Cherubs” opens with a melodic instrumental lasting more than a minute before Moffat chimes in. It’s indicative of their sound circa the late 90s, early 00s.

The song is off the band’s 1999 album Elephant Shoe. Like many of the band’s early LPs, Elephant Shoe has only been pressed once, and you’ll drop about $70 US for a copy, and pay for international shipping too.

Here’s the dreamy “Cherubs” single:

Love ’em or hate ’em? What do you think of Arab Strap? Any favorite songs? Let me know what you think of the band in the comments below.

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