For an album with a title that comes on like a gravestone, ‘Here Lies the Body’ is unexpectedly red-blooded. But then, sex and death are the two eternal themes in the work of Aidan Moffat.
The story of a chance encounter between old flames on a seaside stag’n’hen do, it’s almost faithful to the blueprint that Moffat’s been refining since he left Arab Strap. But, plot twist: this isn’t a linear narrative, with our author bending the fabric of time to suck us deeper into the emotional life of the characters in his story. As devices go, it’s a sharp one.
He rumbles, and coos, and mutters his way through spoken-word lines of ever-increasing eloquence and deceptive craft. He never wears his art too heavily on his sleeve, Moffat, but lyrically, he’s rarely been more astute, capturing the star-crossed lovers at the heart of this Blackpool tangle as they navigate old emotions, strong drink, rekindled lust, and the inevitability of consequences – at an age when both could really know better.
'Cockcrow' opens with the percussive thrum of R.M. Hubbert’s fingers nervously beating guitar strings – like someone trying to lull themselves with sound – as Siobhan Wilson’s vocals entwine round Moffat’s gruffer tones – in a tug of war between day and night, or desire and common sense.
But Hubbert’s far more than the back-up band. His playing moves fluidly between spindly, ornate fingerwork and full-hearted strumming, lending colour and momentum. And with more intricate musical lines to work with, the meandering story has a world of backdrops to play against.
Built around an irresistible salsa loop, 'Party On', flecked by lilting licks and flourishes, catches a knackered sex machine as he attempts to rev the engine: “Let’s fight the dawn, and party on – do something shocking.”
From then on, it’s a merry-go-round through Blackpool’s illuminations, with Zoltar’s intoxicating whirl round the “potent chaos of the arcade” and cans of cheap cider that crack open the past, tasting the same as they’d remembered, but didn’t know they could get anymore.
Although they’re never too far from the funhouse mirror. ‘Keening for an Old Love’ details the end of a relationship – written up like the scene of a murder, with the blood sprayed all up the wall. “Our bucket’s kicked, we’ve gone for good. Here lies the body of us,” he intones.
But as something dies, something begins anew. A way of being. A way of seeing. A way of accepting what you can be. And with the closer, ‘Fringe’, we meet our female protaganist somewhere after the fall-out, when she’s “just gossip now”, huddling against the snide eyes of school gate mums.
As she drunkenly pees on a camping trip, she catches sight of Cassiopeia and “thinks she sees a shooting star, but she’s not sure enough to wish.”
It’s a song about standing against expectations - the warming crackle of a fire buried in the background noise, the final sound in a compassionate record about lust, and human frailty, and the right and need to dream.
Words: Marianne Gallagher
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