Saturday, 6 December 2014

Album Review - Aidan Moffat - VAGRANTS_09_14

Aidan Moffat’s post-Arab Strap career is vastly varied, ranging from spoken word (I Can Hear Your Heart, Ten Short Songs For Modern Lovers) to ambient (under Lucky Pierre and with Stuart Braithwaite as Aloha Hawaii) and from the roots and folk infused How To Get To Heaven From Scotland to 2011’s SAY award winning, jazz influenced collaboration with Bill Wells.  Given this variety, Moffat’s new release of outtakes and rarities, VAGRANTS_09_14, is remarkably cohesive.

VAGRANTS_09_14 is closest in feel to How To Get To Heaven From Scotland, in part, due to the inclusion of two covers that accompanied the box set edition of the album.  The music is based around traditional song structures, rather than Lucky Pierre’s ambient compositions, focusing on acoustic instruments, although still drawing from Lucky Pierre’s synthesised sounds during You’ll Be Fine and Love Song.

I Got You Babe shows Moffat brilliantly and comically reinterpreting Sonny & Cher’s well-known classic in his trademark morose tone.  As an extra from 2009’s How To Get To Heaven From Scotland, this, along with cover of Glen Campbell’s Love Is Not A Game, foreshadow a string of superb and light-hearted covers from 2011’s Stolen Songs album and 2012’s inspired medley of The Glory Of Love (Peter Cetera), The Power Of Love (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), The Power Of Love (Jennifer Rush) and… The Power Of Love (Huey Lewis And The News).  VAGRANTS_09_14 contains two other covers, Love Is Not A Game (Glen Campbell) and Monkey Talk (Hubert Porter), which may be less known, but bring a similarly upbeat feel to the album, with Monkey Talk drawing from the original’s Calypso style, albeit in a twisted and distorted way.

Intimate moments come in the form of Fan Dance Of The Fledglings and The Lustful Mime.  The former is a lo-fi, spoken word ballad of children playing by the sea that evokes And So We Must Rest from Everything’s Getting Older and the latter a slow and honest portrayal of Moffat’s battle with his sexually primitive side. Dark humour, however, is the lyrical focus of the album, with the cynicism of Moffat’s tweets.

The Morning Song opens the album in a light hearted, optimistic fashion, before confessing the desire to shoot noisy, sleep disrupting birds, whilst Interlude (Waiting In The Car) is a cheek slapping percussive ditty that brings to mind Matthew McConaughay’s chest beating in The Wolf Of Wall Street.  You’ll Be Fine is spoken word set to luscious strings describing the life affirming relief brought by a healthy solitary addiction to Eastenders.  This is Aidan at his most amusing and cynical.

As with much of Moffat’s solo material released under his own name, the album is positive in feel, despite darker lyrical undertones.  The playful nature of the collection of songs lends itself to the almost-flippant Bandcamp digital-only release, but holds its own as an album.  Unlike most collections of unreleased and rare tracks, the appeal of VAGRANTS_09_14 goes beyond that of one just for the fans and shows there’s more strings to Aidan’s bow than those displayed by Arab Strap, Lucky Pierre and Everything’s Getting Older.

- Ashley Leiper

Aidan Moffat - VAGRANTS_09_14 is out now on download via Bandcamp.

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