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Lucky Pierre; Malcolm Middleton
Hypnogogia; 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine
Melodic; Chemikal Underground

It's no surprise that both halves of Glasgow duo Arab Strap have fronted with their debut solo records at almost exactly the same moment, such quaint release-sheet coincidence doing little to dispel the conception of the Scottish lads as being a symbiotic musical union. Aidan Moffat, under the nom de disque Lucky Pierre, has tried his best to escape the shadow cast by Arab Strap with his debut, while Middleton stays pretty close to the blueprint of the band.

There's two ways you can see Aidan Moffat's debut Lucky Pierre longplayer: As either a great success, or a profound disappointment. And the way you see the album depends on the way you look at it, whether you look at it for what it is, or what it's not. What it is is an attempt to give a kick in the ass of the smug scene of soft-beat comedown cockheads, mixing beats and strings to chill-room effect; what it's not is a debut solo album for Arab Strap's Aidan Moffat that sounds anything like Arab Strap's Aidan Moffat. As gruff, slovenly, chick-dicking, beer-drinking, diary-keeping lyricist, Moffat has come off as some pop-music Bukowski, telling tales from the lint-in-the-belly-button of the underbelly of society in the thickest Scottish accent heard this side of Ratcatcher. On their best record, Philophobia, the band were famously credited as: Malcolm Middleton — most things musical; Aidan Moffat — most things not. And, so it's not really a surprise that Moffat, as Lucky Pierre, has taken the one-man-band freedom to explore his largely-dormant musical side, totally distancing this musical persona from his other music persona by putting down the microphone. Which is, of course, where the disappointment will come for fans of the Strap hoping to hear more of the same. However, if you look at it as what Moffat intended it to be, a comedown record to help him get to sleep, Hypnogogia is a great success. Moffat brings the rare air of a non-dance, non-cocksucking, actually-artistic approach to the world of the comedown; and his mixture of blunted beats, baroque percussion, and grand swipes of crackling symphonic strings is infused with the kind of substance that this neo-genre is almost entirely without. "The Heart of All That Is" is the height of the album's fashion, drawing together grand orchestral threads and weaving them together into a dazzling postmodernist garment; ornate dabs of pizzicato strings paint some well-dressed outing in a meadow littered with blossoms blown in the breeze, or something. But, by song's end, Moffat shows himself to be quite the cobbling-together gonzo, finishing off with an extended duet between a string quartet and a vicious charge of static, such a salvo showing he's got at least one Third Eye Foundation record in his collection.

While his vocalist has gone wandering off into some foreign musical field, in the case of Middleton, the guy who makes the music in Arab Strap, the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. In fact, there are numerous moments on the ludicrously-titled 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine that could easily pass as actually being by Arab Strap. Helped out by members of The Delgados and Mogwai, plus his old pal Aidan, the music features Middleton's familiar folkie-esque mournful acoustic guitar, with liberal layers of keyboards and piano, and moments of drumming, looped-guitar, beats, and even some weeping violin. Being so similar to his main musical gig, what this debut solo album really represents is Middleton's debut as vocalist. Keeping his singing largely to a hesitant murmur, replete with the heavy Scottish accent, Middleton's first vocal foray finds him wearing his heart on his sleeve without impunity. Invariably, the lyrics lack Moffat's savage wit, but they more than match him in turns of miserablism. "Cold Winter" features the glum sob "Behind everything I do, stares the cold truth I don't have you"; "Speed on the M9" falls back on the mantra "I'm so lonely"; and "Devil and the Angel" gets self-reflexive with the words of a "devil": "You'll never amount to anything, you'll never achieve anything, you'll never be good at anything, and your songs are shite." The latter lyric seem rather like he's fishing for validation, at the least, if not contradictory compliments.

by Anthony Carew

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