McEwans with Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat

EXPORT [4.5%] by McEWAN’S

paired with EVERYTHING’S GETTING OLDER by BILL WELLS & AIDAN MOFFAT

??? Unloved ???

I grew up in South Central G-Rothes which is in the Kingdom of Fife which is in the Republic of Scotland. In those days the only real beer choice you had was Tennent’s or McEwan’s. Tennent’s was the market leader and held sway in 3 of the 4 town centre pubs but I always prefered McEwan’s. Of course, at the start of my drinking career it was lager that I drunk – McEwan’s Export was only for old men. In 93 I moved to St Columb Major in Cornwall and it was while living there that I began to broaden my palate and experiment with pints of real ale and cans of bitter, et al. When I returned to G-Rothes at the start of 97 it was still difficult to buy a beer that wasn’t lager or Guinness. One evening when in Flappers (the sole McEwan’s pub) I asked for a bottle of Export – 99p for a 250ml bottle – and was rather impressed by the taste…

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Aidan Moffat in 2010

I got into the music of Aidan Moffat via the, no doubt, very common route of being an Arab Strap fan. I was there right from the start… moreorless. My then girlfriend was originally from Falkirk and still had strong family ties to the place so when she heard The First Big Weekend on Radio One and discovered where the band came from she knew she had to get a copy – so the next day she popped to Sleeves in Kirkcaldy. After that we bought all their records pretty much on release day and went to see them live several times including one gig at the Attic in Edinburgh where Brendan O’Hare and Jock Scott rabble-roused and Aidan announced they’d just played The First Big Weekend for the last time… ever! (I don’t know how true that turned out to be though.) I split with that girlfriend a decade ago and all the Strap material went to her in the divorce settlement (including both copies of Quiet Violence) and for a long time I forgot all about the music of Aidan & Malky.

I sampled the solo offerings of Malcolm Middleton (the other half of Arab Strap) first… but that’s a tale for another day.

Early in 2010 I bought a download copy of Moffat’s How To Get Heaven From Scotland and thought it was fantastic – certainly on a par with and probably finer than any LP that Arab Strap released… a few months later I saw him play live at The Borderline in London. It was an entirely solo affair: just Aidan singing/talking his lyrics and providing musical accompaniment with a strum stick or an autoharp or a backgammon set that made weirdly cool noises… it was an absolute joy of an evening and not plagued by the chattering classes that had began to invade Arab Strap gigs when I last saw them at the start of the millenium

In the summer of 2011 Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat released their collaboration album, Everthing’s Getting Older…

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The Best Buy In Beer... Allegedly

It’s probably been about two years since I last quaffed an Export or four. There is no real reason why I haven’t indulged… I guess like most mere mortals I’ve met some new friends and momentarily forgotten about old comrades.

The beer poured a lot lighter than I remembered it being – a nice deep golden colour with a kick of red and a decent white head… it fits perfectly into the new BrewDog Abstrakt glasses and doesn’t look even slightly self-concious.

The nose offers sour cherry, a faint blast of roasting chestnuts plus a bit of butterscotch and a slight oily odour. And a definite Belgian tang , which is interesting.

Taste wise it wasn’t at all how memory served but I still found it to be a very enjoyable brew: the intial taste is quite sweet and almost comes across like an old fruit salad sweet but the nutty roasted malts and sour yeast tang work as a good counterbalance and stop it tasting too sickly sweet. The only downside it the dirty metal finish that battles against the subtle hit of bitter chocolate, thankfully this isn’t too predominant and doesn’t really detract from the overall worth of the beer.

Memory is a funny thing: I expected McEwan’s Export to look darker, smell darker and taste darker… but no.

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Everything's Getting Older

I had originally planned to pair the Export with an LP that I got into at the same time that I 1st got into the beer but as the taste analysis progressed I realised that I needed to pair an old classic of Scottish brewing with a new classic of the Scottish music scene… the obvious partner was the album that was undoubtedly the finest “Scotish” release of 2011.

Everthing’s Getting Older contains all the classic Moffat obsessions: doom and gloom, love, love gone wrong, booze, shagging, emotional turmoil, emotional highs, warring spouses, family and friendship… it’s a great slice of bleak dark Scottish optimism: aye, life might be pish but that disnae mean I cannae enjoy maself.

The lyrics are expertly blended with the music, which has elements of rock, 80s synth pop, jazz and 1920s silent movie soundtracks – it is a very varied package but it still manages to hang perfectly together.  Before I bought the album I hadn’t heard much of Bill Wells work but it’s apparent from the music contained on this LP that he is a very gifted composer and player (I’ve since got hold of some more of this work and have been very impressed by it all). Wells strikes me as a man who realises you don’t have to play big to sound beautiful – many times on Everything’s Getting Older he sends subtle electric shocks through my body and mind with just a few softly played notes… stunning and beautiful music.

I think Everthing’s Getting Older is the musical equivalent of drinking a little too much: it sends you to bed feeling a little subdued, a little bleary eyed, a little bit groggy but your heart is singing and you know whatever shit life throws at you tomorrow you’ll get past it and ultimately life is good.

I must confess that I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic… I’d like to think that in twenty years time I’ll still be able to enjoy a few cans of McEwan’s Export and Everthing’s Getting Older will still be able to break and mend my heart.

* * *

Everything’s Getting Older is available from Chemikal Underground (buy the triple vinyl)

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… all photography by landells except Everthing’s Getting Older …

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~ by landells on January 21, 2012.

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