Aden, Hey 19 / Arab Strap, The Red Thread

Aden, Hey 19 / Arab Strap, The Red Thread

On the surface, these records don’t have much to do with each other, besides alphabetic proximity and the fact that they showed up in my mail box at the same time. And only a foolish reviewer would try to discuss them at the same time. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for you, I am incredibly foolish.

So, why review them at the same time? Because both records are about selling a mood, an emotional state of being that permeates them that overwhelms any individual content of the record, and certainly any specific musical moments. And, ultimately, your opinion on these records will almost entirely depend on your ability to emotionally connect with that mood…and in this case, I wasn’t able to connect to either.

Aden’s mood is pleasant. Not necessarily happy, but pleasant. The music (gtr.gtr.bass.drums, standard issue) may rock slightly at times, but never impolitely. The lyrics may get sad sometimes, but nothing that a good night’s sleep wouldn’t fix up. There’s nothing you couldn’t play in front of your parents, or that you would particularly mind in the background. But: there’s nothing that suggests any emotional urgency of any kind, or that creates any other kind of defining impression stronger than “pleasant.” Which, for some people, is undoubtedly the bee’s knees. I’m sure there’s many a 19-year-old for whom this is a soundtrack for walking around in the rain and looking at flowers. They’re welcome to it.

I didn’t know Aden before, but I did have one Arab Strap album (The Week Never Starts Around Here), so I thought I had some idea of what I was into: where Aden is pleasant, Arab Strap is miserable. Arab Strap is musically substantially less consistent (apart from the drum machine that’s over most of the damn album); there’s thin layers of guitar lines on some songs, while other songs burst with almost-orchestral swells, and others have a dance feel to them. However, the rock songs that dotted the earlier album are not to be found here. There’s almost a palpable sense that they just don’t have the emotional strength to rock — they’re too miserable. Again, I’m sure this album will be the soundtrack for heartbreak for more than one person, and it will mean more to them than life itself. However, I can’t connect to it one damn bit right now, and I’m sort of glad.

(Teenbeat Records -- P.O. Box 390898, Cambridge, MA. 02139; http://www.teenbeatrecords.com/; Matador Records -- 625 Broadway, 12th Floor, New York, NY. 10012; http://www.matadorrecords.com/; Aden -- http://www.hot-licks.org/; Arab Strap -- http://www.arabstrap.co.uk/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Tuesday, October 1st, 2002. Filed under Reviews.

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