Bill Wells has released some wonderful work in various different guises. His two albums as leader of the Bill Wells Trio are borderline essential listening for anyone with an ambient-jazz leaning. His release with Isobel Campbell is worth seeking out and he’s played his part in some fine albums in association with Annie Whitehead, Stefan Schneider and Barbara Morgenstern. It’s not all glory, but his strike rate is pretty good. His new solo outing, ‘Lemondale’, is right next to the turntable as I type and will likely get a play in the next day or two. I’ll happily predict that it’ll be pretty decent at the very least. And all this before we even get to the wondrous talent of Aidan Moffat: one half of Arab Strap, magnificent solo artist and thoroughly endearing raconteur.
Emerging from the instrumental opener, ‘Cages’ comes on with disturbingly frantic strings and a trademark malevolent narration from Moffat. It’s excellent stuff, elevated to greatness when it slides into the chorus, which features the lines: “A change is just a new routine, a new function for the same machine. Are we ever truly free?” The combination of Wells at his playful best and Moffat at his, well, playful best is a potent force and this is not an album designed for shuffle. Clear forty minutes in your day, open the alcoholic beverage of choice and sink into a comfy chair. It’s like theatre. Moffat’s always been a master of lyrical storytelling and he’s in both fine form and voice on ‘Everything’s Getting Older’.
Side one concludes with ‘The Copper Top’, for which Wells throws himself into mournful swoops of strings and plaintive piano and over which Moffat tells us of the purchase of a three-piece suit for a funeral which, he muses, can then be used for next week’s christening too. For all the gleeful swearing and sexual aggression that can bubble wickedly in Moffat’s work, this simple track is an absolute joy and manages to be one of the ultimate highlights amongst superb company.
Next thing you know, normal service has been resumed with ‘Glasgow Jubilee’, the album’s other breathtaking moment. The resolute thud of the rhythm section on this is something of a shock to the system after what has come before, but the thrusting talk of whores and lying which sits atop it wouldn’t work any other way. It contains several lyrics which will make you laugh out loud, but repeated plays will reveal a masterfully constructed track and one of 2011’s finest songs.
If you didn’t take to Arab Strap then it’s unlikely you’ll be utterly smitten with ‘Everything’s Getting Older’, but, for the rest of us, it’s a joy to behold. Moffat, one of Twitter’s finest late-night, booze-fuelled, sweary-faced ranters, has already hinted at the pair working together again and it’s hard to think why they wouldn’t on this evidence. Here’s hoping.