Arab Strap
The Cunted Circus
/self-released; 2003/



more info:

I'm not a long time arab strap fan, I'm hardly a long time fan for most of the bands i love, but that doesn't really matter. Our slacker friend who's got dirty business in Dublin caught the band on their latest European tour and brought back high priced copies of the band's latest release, a tour-only -the band will also sell it on when they come back from touring- live album titled The Cunted Circus. Word is that the band wanted to use this title for their latest chemikal underground release, Mondays at the Hug and Pint, but Scottish label owners thought it would be a bit offensive for your grandma's eyes. 

So, this was recorded on one night, last July in Glasgow, the band's sunny hometown. The line-up : acoustic guitar, cello, violin, piano, trumpet, bass, pedal steel and a drum machine. I knew how this was going to sound since I have seen them at the fabulous Primavera festival with my dear friends -even though it seems i've lost one- in Barcelona last Spring. Primavera is a great festival. I shouldn't tell you in order to keep it secret but really, it was awesome. Anyway. On this live album you will find lots of songs from Mondays at the Hug and Pint, three exerpts from Philophobia ("Here We Go," "Soaps" and "Packs of Three"), two hard rock covers (AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" and Van Halen's "Why Can't This Be Love") one b-side ("The Good Part," from The Shy Retirer ep) and a brand new song ("Mustard Pants"). 

It sounds relaxed and quiet, closer to Mondays at the Hug and Pint's melancholy than to Philophobia's gruelling sadness. If you like your Strap oppressive and claustrophobic, Mad for Sadness, the band's 1998 live album will be a better choice. Some of the Mondays songs sound almost happy and finally peaceful; Aidan laughs, dedicates hard rock anthems to John, pedal steel turns "Soaps" into great campfire material, they abort "Why Can't This Be Love" and start it over with a laugh and, even though most of the songs hit you in the guts, the band sounds more euphoric than desperate. I'm far from being objective but highlights here are "Meanwhile, at the Bar, a Drunkard Muses", sung with a tight yet shaking voice, "The Shy Retirer," just because, and the unbelievably gorgeous "Serenade" which closes the band's pre-encore set. On "You Shook Me All Night Long" (also on The Shy Retirer ep, along with the Van Halen cover, "The Good Part," "The New Saturday" and a superfluous remix of "The Shy Retirer"), Aidan sounds like a man running as fast as he can, exhilarated, with a big grin on his face. "Here We Go," "Glue" and "Packs of Three" are the set's downers, even though Aidan comes close to ruining Packs of Three's haunting atmosphere by almost parodying himself. 

Of course this isn't as essential as Philophobia, Mad for Sadness or Mondays at the Hug and Pint, but if you already own the previous Arab Strap records and keep on asking for more, The Cunted Circus -a better investment than their latest ep, even though it's a bit more expensive- will make a great Christmas gift, from your grandma's heart to yours.

-Barbara H

/nov 15th 2003/