“Two sad old men singing their old songs” is how Arab Strap singer Aidan Moffat describes the band’s celebration of iconic album Philophobia.
It is part tongue in cheek, part an acknowledgement of the 25 years that have passed since the album’s release in 1998.
Now 50, Aidan and Arab Strap partner Malcolm Middleton, 49, will headline The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen on Wednesday, December 6.
Philophobia Undressed will see Arab Strap celebrate the album by playing it in its entirety as a duo.
Aidan confirmed there will be subtle changes to the songs, inevitable due to passing of time – and is quick to stress it is “not George Lucas messing with Star Wars”.
Arab Strap may be briefly revisiting 1998 but they are no nostalgia act.
‘Songs evolve over time’
Aidan confirmed a new album, the follow up to 2021’s As Days Get Dark, has been completed and is scheduled for release in May next year.
He said: “We thought it would be fun to see what the songs sound like being sung by old men, as opposed to the young men that made the record.
“Two sad old men singing their old songs.
“A lot of people think you should never mess with old things and I agree with that.
“No-one is changing the record.
“This isn’t George Lucas tampering with Star Wars.
“It’s just songs naturally evolve over time and they always sound different the more you play them.
“It is important we play the songs as we can to the abilities we have now rather than try to unlearn what we have learned in the past couple of decades.”
A quiet celebration
While never ones to dwell on the past Aidan and Malcolm will take time to acknowledge the significance of Philophobia.
The dictionary definition of philophobia is ‘a fear of love’.
Aidan said: “My voice is very different to what it was 25 years ago.
“I couldn’t sing then and I’m not sure I can sing now.
“What I certainty couldn’t do back then was make the sound that is in my head.
“I think I’m a lot better at doing that now.
“It’s interesting to hear how we can do Philophobia.
“We didn’t want to do the full bells and whistles band thing.
“We are very happy with the new stuff we are doing with the band.
“So we felt to do a big production on the Philophobia gigs would be more of a step backwards.
“So we thought we would celebrate it quietly with just the two of us.”
‘You can’t recreate the past’
Released on Chemikal Underground Records it further strengthened Arab Strap’s status as a voice for an increasingly disenfranchised generation.
Aidan and Malcolm will perform the album with a guitar or two, some drum machines and a digital Mellotron.
Is replaying Philophobia like stepping into a time machine and revisiting 26-year-old Aidan?
He said: “Do people really change? I’m not so sure.
“I think we just get better at hiding our true selves.
“It’s not so much a step down memory lane.
“To me it’s like reading a diary and some of the lyrics I have changed a little bit.
“Things that I maybe should have clarified at the time.
“We are the same people but slightly different version of ourselves with different talents.
“It is not an especially nostalgic trip as it’s about doing the songs now rather than recreating the past.
“You can’t recreate the past and I think if we tried to people would just be disappointed as it never quite works.
“When we reformed before we didn’t want to be a heritage rock band or anything like that.
“We are very much about the way we perform now.”
Remembering a previous Aberdeen gig
Having disbanded in 2006 Arab Strap reformed more than a decade later on the understanding they would evolve and deliver new music.
They made a triumphant recording return with As Days Get Dark in 2021.
Now the much anticipated follow up has been completed.
Aidan said: “The new material is finished but the album won’t be out until May.
“The first single is in January and we are just putting the finishing touches to that.
“There will be tour so we will be back next year with the full band playing all the noisy stuff.”
It is a city Aidan insists gets better every time the band play there.
He remembers a disastrous gig from 20 years ago and a triumphant show at The Tivoli as part of the True North Festival in September 2017.
Aidan said: “There was one very memorable which went disastrously wrong at The Lemon Tree.
“It was one of those nights when everything went wrong and thankfully it was a long time ago. I love The Lemon Tree.
“Every time we are in Aberdeen we have a brilliant time and it seems to get better.
“We played The Tivoli and it was such a great night.
“Richard Dawson supported us which is quite strange to think about because I don’t think that would happen now. That might have been my favourite Aberdeen show.”