ARAB STRAP: ELEPHANT SHOE (1999)
1) Cherubs; 2) One Four Seven One; 3) Pyjamas; 4) Autumnal; 5) Leave The Day Free; 6) Direction Of Strong Man; 7) Tanned; 8) Aries The Ram; 9) The Drinking Eye; 10) Pro-(Your) Life; 11) Hello Daylight.
This is where the formula starts to get seriously annoying; not coincidentally, Elephant Shoe is occasionally hailed as Arab Strap's masterpiece, because one man's serious inflammation of all points of annoyance is another man's acute stimulation of all points of exuberance. People from all sorts of circles were more than happy to rave about the record simply because, from an ideological point, it was such an attractive hipster's paradise.
In other words, if your standard model of behaviour involves permanently getting sloshed at the local pub (nightclub / bar / gay bar / subway station, depending on areal circumstances), coming home no earlier than 4 a.m., conducting all other-sex relationships from a purely physiological point of view (fuck love anyway, since love demands kindness and to be kind is uncool), and limiting your human functions to poorly articulated blabber that tries to mold together some sort of «soul» out of sheer animal instinct — then Elephant Shoe is the next chapter in your personal Bible. Different from the previous one only in that there is just a wee bit less brutal sexual imagery and just a wee bit more vague thoughts about the future (e. g. 'Autumnal', on which Moffat's /anti-/hero even considers having children — "we've already named the seeds I'll be sowing" — but then again no, what with 'Pro-(Your) Life' certifying that "the time's not right" and that "you just have to accept mistakes happen". Which is all too well: I shudder to think of the poor fate that would befall the anti-hero's children... not that it ain't happening in real life all too often).
I cannot state that this attitude is not conveyed well enough. It must be, since it has captivated so many people who can relate to it, or, rather, who wish they could relate to it. But it is not conveyed well enough to convert me the way, for instance, a 'My Sweet Lord' is able to awaken my inner churchgoer (sure he goes back to sleep right after the song is over, but while it's on, it's a doggone wonderful feeling all the same). And from this I assume that either I really, really, really passionately hate this attitude with a vengy-vengeance — or that Elephant Shoe's side effect of boredom is simply too overwhelming to help that other little guy come awake.
Because, back in the studio again, Moffat and Middleton are back to their old tricks. Five, six, seven-minute long songs basically run on one, at best two, looped musical ideas with not even a single atmospheric build-up in sight. And they aren't even beautiful musical ideas, like, for instance, the coda to the Beatles' 'I Want You' whose chords puncture my depression centers all the time. They're... okay musical ideas. Ambient, dreamy, but not genius. Besides, I think that even the Beatles, had they suddenly come up with the bizarre idea of recording a whole LP of 'I Want You'-like songs, would not manage to sustain anybody's interest for one whole hour.
The best I can say about Elephant Shoe is it ain't too frustrating if you just take it as background accompaniment. Quiet, relaxing, inobtrusive sonic stuff that sets a good mood for killing some time while surfing on the Internet or playing Minesweeper or even working. And that's also what helps you to miss out on all of its stoned cultural philosophy — and consider all those Pitchfork and AMG reviews as manifestations of pretentious idiocy — and, eventually, contribute towards building a bright new world for all tomorrow's children. Delighted to give this a thumbs down.
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