Arab Strap – Tuning Fork, Auckland 5 June 2022: Concert Review

Arab Strap play their first show in New Zealand and we are welcomed by I don’t give a fuck about the past/ All I need’s an invitation.

It’s an invocation as much as a greeting from Aidan Moffat, the Scottish Beat Poet voice and Malcolm Middleton lead guitar, as they begin with The Turning of our Bones, opening song from last year’s album As Dark as Days Get.

 A duo from the start in the Nineties and had immediate critical Indie music press success with debut single The First Big Weekend. In quick time they added more players on stage for a bigger sound and tonight we have a drummer, bass guitar and keyboards player.

Fusion Indie Rock could describe their sound. There is Post-Punk and Grunge, also some Nu-Metal. They are idiosyncratic in the way the Fall were in combining a type of Beat poetry with all manner of Rock’n’Roll riffs and rhythms. At times atonal and droning so Coltrane may be in the mix.

Swallow The Rat

SWALLOW THE RATA Post-Punk trio from Auckland opens the show tonight and give a welcome blast of cathartic noise instantly pinging the antennae for fans of Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Pixies and the like.

This is Stephen Horsley bass and lead vocals, Hayden Fritchley drums and Brian Purington guitar. There is an Austin Texas connection through the guitarist, and this band has played extensively there including the SWSX festivals.

The first few songs have that nice howling barrage of sound. On Terra the guitarist uses a whole beer bottle as a slider instead of the just the neck.

Chromos, off their debut album Leaving Room, changes pace with a slower majestic drone and electronic sound effects similar to the Doctor Who theme. Melodic Metal with a Nordic, ice and fjords atmosphere.  

Redactor works out as a hypnotic trance drone where they also throw up some primal Blues guitar riffs amongst the simple repetitive chord thrash. Echoes of a John Lee Hooker stomp.

The bass is big and brutal throughout and really rumbles with malevolent thunder on their closing song Strasht Road. Nasty like the Stranglers’ Jean-Jacque Burnel. When the guitar pipes up it ends in a maelstrom.

Arab Strap        

Arab Strap  The opening song sets the tone for their show. Metronomic rhythms give an irresistible propulsion as guitar and keyboards pulse in waves of sound. The singer seems to be preaching like William Burroughs in Interzone/ Naked Lunch.

But let’s squeeze the maggots from our flesh/ Like tiny poison pustules.

Wild Bill Lee is a Godfather to Punk and Rock’n’Roll Art and you could start from the Velvet Underground to Stooges, to the Clash and beyond. Just as Steely Dan is the name of a dildo from one of his short stories, I wonder whether the Arab is a Strap-on.

New Birds is all spoken-tale as the music starts slowly like the introduction to the Velvet’s Heroin. The rolling riffs from the band rise into a solid mass of sound barrage.

This song is about shaggin’ says Moffat. They all are as the subject matter is a delve into the psyche and psychodrama of the male condition with a level of raw emotional honesty which I can only compare to John Lennon with his Plastic Ono Band period. He had Phil Spector to soften the trauma. With Arab Strap it is full of black humour and liberal profanity. This could be MacBurroughs, Scottish brogue and all.

Blackness is a slow march and it’s dark and Gothic. Nice twanging guitar as we hear This is the only love/ Just us and the bright green sky/ Glowing and pulsing above. The ice and the Northern Lights.

Fable of the Urban Fox, also off the new album, has the idiosyncratic springy rhythms of a Laurie Anderson (more Burroughs), with piercing keyboards cutting like a scalpel.

Arab Strap  Tears on Tour is heavy on tribal beats matched to some melodic Surf guitar.

Speed Date and they lay out charged Detroit Rock riffs from the era of the Stooges and MC5.

Early songs can be quieter, as is Piglet. It’s a gentle reverie about a relationship. The lass in question claims I didn’t shag him/ He slept on the couch in the kitchen/ He might as well be a girl. It’s not so gentle later.

They finish the show as a duo, with Packs of Three and The Shy Retirer. As sharp and gritty as expected. These people are your friends/ This cunted circus never ends. Singing rather than speaking at the close and he gets to sound a little like Peter Perrot from the Only Ones.

A long wait to see the Arab Strap, and they delivered an enthralling and emotionally charged show at the Fork’n Auckland. Say it fast with a Scottish accent.

Rev Orange Peel          

Click any icon to view a gallery of photos from Ivan Karczewski

Arab Strap
Swallow the Rat