LISTEN: Arab Strap Duo Cover Slow Club
, August 2nd, 2011 09:29
Moffat & Middleton united by love for song
Arab Strap were always masters of the cover version, as anyone who has heard their maudlin take on The Fall's 'Bill Is Dead' (done with Mogwai) will testify. We're therefore honoured to pass on this excellent cover of Slow Club's 'Two Cousins 1999', with accompanying explanation from Aidan Moffat below.
Aidan Moffat: When Rebecca from Slow Club sent me a Twitter DM to ask if I’d like to cover or remix their new single, I hadn’t heard it. I think I gave a vague ‘probably’ in reply, working on the premise that I knew and enjoyed their first album and saw no reason why I wouldn’t like their new stuff. I’d first heard their music when I found a promo CD of their debut album Yeah So lying on my hall floo – it had been posted though my door with no envelope, address or stamp, just a handwritten letter addressed to Mr. Moffat: ‘Dear Aidan, when we play Glasgow, we stay upstairs. This is our album.’
Until then, I thought I’d kept my career a mysterious secret from The Girls Upstairs, but now I was rumbled, and it appeared their mates in Slow Club were fans of my records. I put the disc straight into the computer and played it while doing some work, won over by the three kisses and one big love-heart on the accompanying note. It was – and still is – a winsome, youthful, fun and melodic pop record sung by two characteristic, complementary voices. I was intrigued and surprised: at first, it could scarcely be further sonically dissimilar to the kinds of sounds I make, but on deeper listening it turned out they were singing about broken hearts too, they just weren’t as cynical or as grumpy as me. It’ll come though; they’re still young.
Skip to a couple of years later and I’ve now finally embraced this new social media carry-on and I’m opening a Twitter account, searching my friends’ Following lists for ideas, and I find SlowClubRebecca, who seems to have hardwired her brain directly into its mainframe (Charles is on it too, but not nearly as prolific). I Follow, she Follows, and soon the remix or cover request comes in. I forget about it for a while, thinking she’ll be back in touch when she needs to be, and then one day I see a Tweet to announce that the new Slow Club video is now online. I assume that must be the song I might be remixing or covering, and click through to give it a listen.
Now, I always find it impossible to explain exactly why I like something, and to attempt to do so for Slow Club’s ‘Two Cousins’ could only result in garbled, flowery cliché, so instead let me tell you what happened next. I played the video eleven times in a row, Tweeted my love for it, then DMed Rebecca to confirm I’d very much love to do a remix or cover. She then emailed me an MP3 which I immediately added to my phone, and I played it on repeat in my headphones for the entire duration of the journey from my flat in Glasgow to Edinburgh Waverley Station, which is approximately 96 minutes, then did the same on the return journey two hours later. Suffice to say, I was impressed.
I decided against a remix though; I couldn’t see how I could make it work. So my only option was a cover, but there’s no way my voice could sing this song without sapping the fun from it. And then I remembered an old Arab Strap joke we used to make, about how we’d take someone else’s song and just add a drum machine, slow it down and make it miserable, and hey presto, it’s an Arab Strap cover. So I decided it could be fun to make it sound like a recording my old band made years ago, but I couldn’t possibly do that without Malcolm Middleton, and we’ve been professionally separated for five years now. But I asked him if he fancied it, and he did, and that’s all there was to it. It’s not an Arab Strap performance as such, rather it’s the two guys who used to be Arab Strap recording their own, informed pastiche; think of it as an extremely accurate tribute band. Like the song itself, it was good fun, but it’s not as good as the original.