Monday, May 23, 2011

Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat Deliver A Masterpiece


You know, if an astute music junkie like myself somehow missed news of this album, then the least I can do is draw attention to the record and point people in the direction of the thing.

Aidan Moffat (ex-Arab Strab) and Bill Wells (Pastels and Isobel Campbell collaborator) have released a real thing of beauty. Everything's Getting Older by Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat is out now on Chemikal Underground. In the States, it's already up as an MP3 download from Amazon with the CD due soon.

Get this record. Now.

Imagine, somehow, Arab Strap doing Songs For Drella (1990). I really can't do this record justice so that lazy comparison will have to do.

Take "A Short Song To The Moon": over barreling piano riffs, the song unfolds with a Weillian flare. That is followed up by "Ballard Of The Bastard" which -- lyrically, at least -- enters familiar lands of self-hatred travelled earlier by Moffat with Arab Strap -- but that piano! Shame replaced with a poignant self-awareness, the song is like Tom Waits doing Sondheim!

But then, on a spoken word piece like "The Copper Top", we've got strings coaxing Moffat's tale of a trip to the tailor.

"Birth, love, and death: The only reasons to get dressed up."

Recalling the best moments of Arab Strap, the lyrics don't invite despair but a simple acceptance of the ups-and-downs of the everyday. Like director Mike Leigh, Moffat and Middleton got pegged as miserablists but they were so much more: honest, empathic observers of life.

And now, with the music of Bill Wells behind him, Moffat gives vent to his sadness but the music carries things along if not jauntily, at least with a hopeful rise at key moments.

On "Dinner Time", a largely spoken word story from Moffat, the piano from Wells recalls a crime film from the 1970s, something from Italy maybe?

The mix of musicians here is what is key.

It's the way the piano seems the optimistic force behind "The Greatest Story Ever Told", another spoken word piece. Moffat talks over the track, more or less, and comes to the line "And remember: we invented love. And that's the greatest story ever told.". A listener could hear those words in an Arab Strap song and it would be the song and story of something lost.

Here, with those drums and piano kicking in behind the lyric, it sounds like the recognition of something to be proud of.

Everything's Getting Older by Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat is a beautiful record. This is private music full of adult emotion and an awareness of the everyday, the commonplace mingling with the transcendent thanks to the talents of Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat.