Friday, April 10, 2015

Everything's Getting Important

Released in 2011, Everything's Getting Older - a collaboration between Scottish jazzman Bill Wells and Arab Strap vocalist Aidan Moffat - was a rather surprising listen. Not simply because it mixed Moffat's gruff storytelling with something new (Wells's rich, lovely jazz licks), but because its grotesquely detailed cover gave absolutely no indication of how comforting the songs underneath ultimately were. Yes, there were sobering ruminations on our slow, inexhorable march towards the grave (The Copper Top), but Moffat made sure to remind us that life was nevertheless worth living. Few songs, for example, make me feel as happy and at ease as The Greatest Story Ever Told:

"Look after yer teeth"

In fact, I frequently reach for Everything's Getting Older at bedtime - I find that it always sends me into a peaceful, untroubled sleep, which is no mean feat for an album about ageing.

Released last month, The Most Important Place in the World - Wells and Moffat's second album together - is, in many ways, even more surprising than its predecessor. The artwork for this one was provided by Aidan Moffat's little boy, and his cute family scene suggests that The Most Important Place will be picking up from where EGO left off, giving us a glimpse of the domestic bliss into which Moffat presumably settled after starting his new "dynasty" in The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Not so. Just as those aged-looking portraits belied the happy ending that Everything's Getting Older eventually delivered, so too does Moffat Jr's drawing disguise the fact that The Most Important Place in the World is a break-up album. I've no idea whether or not Moffat has, in fact, parted ways with the mother of his child since the last LP, but even if he hasn't, he's managed to come out with some very depressing stuff on this new record.

If nothing else, The Most Important Place proves that Wells and Moffat are utterly peerless when it comes to describing, through music and lyrics, the boredom that can sometimes seep into a relationship after a little while. Vanilla portrays a dull, unexciting sexual encounter between two people who seem to have been together for too long, and the music, unchanging and monotonous, reflects this story quite brilliantly. Similarly, opening track On The Motorway is underpinned by the steady click of a car's indicator, which - as Moffat drawls 'baby, I'm bored' - feels like the perfect metaphor for a romance that isn't going anywhere.

In fairness, the album does take the time to point at that consistency and steadiness aren't always red flags in a relationship; the wonderfully lounge-y Any Other Mirror would be a completely charming love song on its own, but in the context of the whole album, it does feel like a slightly delusional attempt to justify an increasingly unworkable situation. By track 1, The Eleven Year Glitch, the cheating and boredom become too much, and Moffat pretty much confirms that it's all over ("You'll never want me back, walk away").

There's probably a lesson buried somewhere in The Most Important Place about how to keep your relationship fresh and give it the best possible chance of working out, but as far as I'm concerned, the real lesson is simply this:

Never trust an album cover.

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