9 Jun 2024

Review: I’m totally fine with it 👍 don’t give a f*** anymore 👍 by Arab Strap

From The Sampler, 4:00 pm on 9 June 2024
Arab Strap

Photo: Supplied

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The emojis in this album's title are crucial to understanding the music. Because not only have the Scottish duo made one of the year’s best albums, they’ve also made a definitive work about the internet. Social media specifically, and what it’s doing to the way we interact.

Lyrics like “There's no true you, just today's persona/ Gregarious extrovert, timid loner”, in ‘Haven’t You Heard’, allude to the way we reinvent ourselves online. It also contains phrases common in web discourse, like ‘preferred pronouns’ and ‘slut-shaming’. The whole album is full of these. In fact track one contains the word ‘discourse’. 

That song, 'Allatonceness' is aimed at the way online trolls attempt to hijack and control platforms like Twitter, with lines like “They've got your attention, the groomers and grifters/ And they've all done their own research/ They've got your attention, antagonised fanboys/ While Nazis and rapists sell merch”. 

‘Sociometer Blues’ meanwhile seems to address a lover, over its fervent, tumbling drum fills. But listen closer, as Aiden Moffat addresses someone he gives a squeeze in the morning, only to receive a dressing down, and you realise: he’s talking about his phone.

That track ends on the refrain, “our thoughts and opinions are not our own”, reflecting a kind of malaise from spending too much time. Moffat admits he’s addicted to doom scrolling.

In the ‘90s Arab Strap had a reputation as smutty - their name is taken from a sexual device which I won’t elaborate on - but also for a kind of scabrous honesty. The tunes had more spoken word than singing, and some tracks felt a bit like hearing an extract from Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting over a Mogwai instrumental. 

That changed over time, they softened somewhat and sang more, and Malcolm Middleton, who supplies the music, branched out into electronic avenues, among others. I’m Totally Fine With It is a great listen start to finish, despite jumping between various sound palettes you’d think might clash. 

‘Hide Your Fires’ segues from mutant techno into a final, guitar fuelled chorus. And on ‘Strawberry Moon’, a highlight among many, Middelton deploys a growling distorted bass and snippets of funk guitar.

The photos of Arab Strap with this release feature the pair taking selfies, and there are other signifiers besides the lyrics that clue you in to what’s happening here. 

The last sound on the album is a dial-up modem connecting, and final song ‘Turn Off The Light’ features a mouse clicking: audibly an older desktop version. These sounds seem to cheekily acknowledge the band’s age (they’re both in their early 50s), even as they prove themselves expert chroniclers of the way tech has changed us. 

Beyond this it’s bittersweet, anthemic, angry and strangely uplifting, even on that last track, which is written from the perspective of someone finding meaning in an online conspiracy. 

The title itself, I’m totally fine with it 👍 don’t give a f*** anymore 👍, is written in such a way that, if you received it as a message on, say, Facebook, you would know the person who sent it wasn’t fine with it at all. And that’s the point.