Artist: Arab Strap
Title: The Smell of Outdoor Cooking
Format: 7" single
Catalogue Number: LISS22
Year of Release: 1997
Limited Edition of 2000
A1 The Smell of Outdoor Cooking
B2 Blackstar (you'll note this is uncredited on the record label itself)
Second single from Falkirk's finest (which ain't sayin' much, frankly), has a lot in common with the work on their debut album The Week Never Starts Round Here, which was released just months before. The A side is features cheap keyboards, slightly off-kilter plucked guitar and amateurish drumming, with Aidan Moffat talking about antics at some barbecue or other. There is an occasional half-sung line, my favourite being what passes for a chorus: "Get your fingers oot ma friend!", which I feel I should translate as a command to "Get your fingers out of my friend", not "Take your hands out of your pockets".
The song concerns the unrequited lust of the singer over what you can only assume is a friend's wife or partner, and his general unwillingness to commit to a serious relationship. As usual with Arab Strap the lyrics are well-observed, maudlin, and rude in turns. Talking about "that business with the poke", or "please don't bend over like that/it makes we wonder/what we be like in bed". A goods tune that deserves repeated listening. A remix was included on a bonus CD (boo! hiss!) with second album Philophobia, which incidentally has the best opening line of any album ever.
The B side I once played at Revolution in Leeds when I was DJing there at the end of one Sunday evening, in order to get rid of people. Those of you who have witnessed me DJing might be surprised that there were still people around at 10.30pm (those sober days before 24hr licensing) to be got rid of, but one of the bouncers was quite keen for us, and everyone else, to bugger off. I said I had a tune that would be guaranteed to clear the floor ("What? Just one?", you cry) and on it went. It made no discernible difference, but at least I tried.
Arab Strap's official website describes Themetune as a 'heavy metal instrumental'. I've heard heavier, but not from this band, so I'll agree with their verdict, in a qualified manner. I will take issue with the 'instrumental' part though, as this features the Scanner-esque use of one side of an intercepted mobile phone conversation. This track fades out, and the acoustic track Blackstar starts up, sounding like it's been recorded on a dictaphone, which given they have form in this arena, it probably was. Written by Malcolm, it's a bleaker and more abstract tune, lyrics below:
Straight from your own eyes, lift your sights above.
Normality and strangeness.
Loneliness in love.
Like me for who I am, I'll give you a black star.
Ignore my jokes, feed my lies, take advantage of my nature.
Remember all my actions are fuelled for selfish gain.
I live for you and die for you, I'm trying to be a saint.
I'll cry when you leave me and wounded in my own.
It's fake but so is this.
I just couldn't get through the scum floating on my surface.
I wanna be a black star.
I'll give you a black star.
Which looks like teenage poetry now that it's written out, but on the record it's quite affecting. A recommended single.