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Music Review: Aidan Moffat & The Best Ofs – How To Get To Heaven From Scotland

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I should get one thing clear right from the start, Aidan Moffat is my hero. Any man who can live life so removed from any consideration towards such irrelevances as trend, commercialism, and style deserves, in my book at least, to be treated as such.

His ‘to hell with it’ attitude has resulted in a catalog of musical gems that will stand the test of time because of the very fact that they are endearingly unfashionable. In another age Aidan would have been a poet, a larger than life and rather controversial Scottish bard.

Today there wouldn’t be a pub in Glasgow that didn’t have a ‘Moffat sat there’ chair, or a sign saying that ‘Moffat fell off that stool.’ ‘Moffat Night’ would be a great occasion of singing, drinking, poetry, and recital. Now with How To Get To Heaven From Scotland he has surprisingly introduced an altogether more upbeat flavor to help the night along.

His career as part of The Angry Buddhists and, most notably, as one half of Arab Strap produced enough material to keep ‘Moffat Night’ afloat for many a year. His subsequent journey as Lucky Pierre, plain old L.Pierre, The Sick Anchors, and now Aidan Moffat & The Best Ofs just add more and more possibilities to the catalog.

Musically Aidan does just what the hell he likes. That’s not in any way as arrogant as it sounds. All that it means is, when Aidan wakes up one morning and decides he wants to do a spoken word album set around his view of life, then he will. His last album I Can Hear Your Heart was exactly that. As a result he is all the stronger, and we are the beneficiaries, from his lack of slavery to trend.

Now Aidan has formed The Best-Ofs, a sort of part time, almost ad-hoc collaboration including Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai. For this latest album How To Get To Heaven From Scotland (Chemikal Underground Records) we meet an altogether brighter, less world weary, dare I say content sounding Moffat from the one we know and love of old.

The caustic wit and his characteristic slant on life are still very much in evidence but there is a difference. Aidan has found love. Real love. He even released a special box set version of the album on Valentines Day.

To underline the point it opens with “Lover’s Song” which he describes as, ‘a simple song of geographically challenged romance’. Stripped down to cello, woodwind, and human beat box it opens the album in typically poetic style.

“Big Blonde” has Aidan celebrating ‘that incredible and joyous instant when we realize that we’re finally over our ex and comfortably in love with someone new’. Sitting in a garage in Woodlands Road he sees his ex without realizing it. He suddenly realizes in true Aidan style that he is cured and has moved on. This revelation is set amid a nice little country twang.

“Atheist’s Lament” has him exploring the need we have for belief that is driven by a fear of there being nothing. Again it’s the stripped down intimacy that makes this work on every level. ‘No, I don’t believe in god, I’ve no faith in myth and fable’ he says before admitting, like many of us do, that he wishes he did. Concluding, ‘because then you could watch over me, drop some hints and guide me through.’

“Oh Men!” is a fantastic drinkathon, the man’s eye view of ogling the female of the species. He then turns it round to acknowledge the fact that woman outshine us ‘in almost every way’ and that us men are mere ‘slaves to our erections.’ This is brilliantly written vintage stuff and would take its place on ‘Moffat Night.’

The next track “A Scenic Route To The Isle Of Ewe” is wonderfully sublime. On his website he characteristically explains, ‘the guitar was so creaky and noisy that rather than clean it up and give it a pop shine, we accentuated the creaks and noise. I’m not interested in pop shine anyway.’

Another joyfully wise ode to the realities of love follows with “That’s Just Love.” These are the sort of words I wish I could leave in a note the next time I behave like a jerk. Talking of notes, the following track “Ballad Of The Unsent Letter” dates back to the last Arab Strap tour and despite being about himself is sung in the third person. It comes complete with words that flow effortlessly from the mind of its writer.

At one time he described himself as ‘an alcoholic lo-fi miserabilist.’ I guess that doesn’t inspire anyone to go out and grab a Moffat offering unless of course, like me you can identify with any or all of that sentiment, or are at least interested in hearing about it. Go back to my poet analogy and you will find that he is very much part of a long and well established tradition.

What separates the likes of Aidan from the rest of us is that he is honest about it, and can summarise it all in words that are so accessible. “Now I Know I’m Right” has Aidan exorcising the ghosts of his ex’s with more of that disarming and touching honesty. “The Last Kiss” explores another twist on the love theme.

“Lullaby For The Unborn Child” is a song of hope and trepidation over impending fatherhood, set amid Aidan’s, then unborn son’s, heartbeat. There are three video pieces within the album and this one is priceless. “Living With You Now” is the voice of wisdom of how we drive each other mad and yet somehow when the day breaks…

So show me down for the first ‘Moffat Night’ celebration. Let me sit in the chair in the corner of the bar where he once sat. Let me listen to renditions of his observations of life and his newly added wise views on love.

Let me end the evening falling off the bar stool that he once fell off. But most of all let me learn from the words on this album so that I know what to say to the one I love when the morning after comes.

Aidan Moffat can be found on his official website.

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About Jeff Perkins