Distancing themselves from past efforts, the duo (Moffat and multi-instrumentalist Malcolm Middleton) ease up on the spoken-word lectures, shifting their focus toward the dance beats and string arrangements of "The Shy Retirer," the orchestral lullabies of "Fucking Little Bastards," and "Loch Leven," where a bagpipe intro morphs into a somber acoustic serenade. Here, Moffat shifts from his usual heavily accented, drunk-sounding tirades to more straightforward singing, which is still difficult to decipher. Moreover, it sounds as if he's less miserable. Indeed, a hopeful pessimism emerges, even with such lovelorn revelations as "I wrote your name with fireworks in the sky, but you never turned up to see it" ("Serenade"). Finally, Arab Strap delivers something more than cry-in-your-beer music, although it bears a resemblance to Scottish stout: It's distinct and substantive, and even when it's dark, it's still refreshing.