Four years after the last musical sojourn, Scotland’s musical odd couple of Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat return with their long awaited sophomore album The Most Important Place In The World. It’s the followup to Bill and Aidan’s 2011 debut album, Everything’s Getting Older. It was received to widespread critical acclaim back in 2011. Since then, music lovers have been awaiting the return of the unlikeliest musical yin and yang, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat.

The Most Important Place In The World. is an album  befitting two of Scotland’s musical mavericks. That’s the perfect way to describe Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat, who between them, have been making music for over fifty years. Musically, that means they’re approaching veteran status. However, Bill and Aidan are also two of Scotland’s national treasures. Especially when they can make an album as unique as The Most Important Place In The World, which was recently released on Glasgow’s premier label, Chemikal Underground.

That’s no exaggeration. After all, only Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat could create an album that features tales of devilment, domestic bliss and femme fatales. Then there’s songs about seduction West of Scotland style. Then on Any Other Mirror they become Scotland’s answer to Bacharach and David. Especially on Any Other Mirror. The pair it seems, have hidden depths. That becomes apparent throughout The Most Important Place In The World.

Throughout The Most Important Place In The World’s twelve tracks, Bill and Aidan flit between musical genres. As Aidan ruminates, and delivers a series of soliloquies, the music veers between Caledonian gospel, to soulful and thanks to Bill’s jazz-tinged piano playing. There’s also the occasional surprise on The Most Important Place In The World when whisper it, Bill and Aidan enjoy an adventure in electro pop on The Eleven Year Glitch. Aidan’s reaction to this adventure in electro pop wasn’t recorded. However, for a couple of minutes you hear the former Arab Strap front man in a new light. That’s the case throughout The Most Important Place In The World, when Bill and Aidan constantly reinvent themselves. To do this, they’re joined by a few musical friends.

As “well kent faces” within Scotland’s vibrant musical scene, Bill and Aidan know everyone that matters. So, they were able to call in a few favours. Joining them on The Most Important Place In The World were string ensemble The Cairn Quartet, saxophonist John Burgess and trumpeter Robert Henderson. Danielle Price played  tuba and Aby Vulliamy, a member of Bill’s National Jazz Trio played viola. Adding to the Caledonian soul sound were the Glad Café Community Choir. Producing The Most Important Place was former Delgado Paul Savage, who previously, has produced Aidan’s former band Arab Strab. With Paul producing The Most Important Place In The World, the musical trio headed off an a journey to an exotic part of the world…Blantyre.

Their reason for doing so, is that Blantyre houses one of Scotland’s top recording studios, Chem 19. It’s where some of the best Scottish albums of the last fifteen years have been recorded. Producing many of them, has been Paul Savage. His credits range from Mogwai, Malcolm Middleton and Miaoux Miaoux, right through to Human Don’t Be Angry, King Creosote and Emma Pollock. Unlike many producers, Paul works with a wide range of artists. His ability to work with an eclectic selection of artists, made him perfect to produce The Most Important Place In The World.

At Chem 19, the twelve songs penned by Bill and Aidan were recorded. Most of the parts were laid down at Chem 19. The exception were the piano parts. They were recorded at Mogwai’s Castle Of Doom Studios by Tony Doogan. However, everything else was recorded and mixed by producer Paul Savage at Chem 19. All that was required was an album cover and a title.

That’s where Aidan Moffat’s six year old son Samuel came in. Samuel Moffat drew the album cover for The Most Important Place In The World, and hopefully, he was well rewarded for doing so. With the album cover in place, a title was needed. So, Bill and Aidan decided to borrow the advertising slogan of a Swedish retailer. Now four years after their debut album Everything’s Getting Older, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat were almost ready to release their sophomore album The Most Important Place In The World.

Before the release of The Most Important Place In The World, critics had their say on the album. Just like Everything’s Getting Older, The Most Important Place In The World was released to critical acclaim. The curmudgeonly sage Aidan Moffat, and jazz pianist Bill Wells may have seemed like an unlikely pairing. However, they’re able to create music that’s truly captivating. You’ll realise that when I tell you about The Most Important Place In The World.

Opening The Most Important Place In The World is On The Motorway. As a journey down the motorway is replicated, Bill adds his wistful jazz flecked piano. Aidan’s soliloquouy is tinged with cynicism, frustration and bitterness. Strings sweep in, and a sultry saxophone sounds. By then Aidan closes his eyes, and lets his mind wander. Thoughts of love and lust come to mind, as “we overtake a truck,” heading home to “The Most Important Place In The World.” The result is a caustic, melodic, tragicomedy from Bill and Aidan. 

As Bill plays his piano on VHS-C, memories come flooding back. Aidan remembers the couple he and his partner were, and wistfully wonders, what they might have become?

Lock Up Your Lambs has a dark, ominous cinematic sound. Screechy strings, a dark, dramatic piano and scrabbling, screeching saxophone combine. When Aidan’s vocal enters, it’s a mixture of power and frustration and anger. Aidan sings about the problem of alcohol addiction, and the thirst that can’t be quenched. It’s definitely a case of “the spirits will prevail, throw booze on the fire and raise them up, the spirits will prevail.” For three minutes, Aidan becomes Scotland’s 21st Century bard.

Bill’s piano paints a sense of melancholia on This Dark Desire. Adding to the late night sound is the braying saxophone. They’re the perfect accompaniment for the all-seeing Aidan. He watches the city at night, even when she sleeps. Aidan sees her secrets, sees its citizens “re-zip and re-button.” He’s one of the “night’s thousand eyes,” in the “city has a thousand secrets.” The voyeur like Aidan, has witnessed one of the “thousand secrets,” during this jazz-tinged, cinematic track.

From the opening bars of The Tangle Of Us, Bill’s piano has you captivated. It’s obvious that another tale of the city at night is about to unfold. It comes courtesy of Aidan’s worldweary vocal. He sings of a fleeting relationship under “a Hammer horror moon.” Soon, a tragicomedy unfolds: “they cheered us on and whistled as they fell home.” Later, Aidan riddled with guilt sings: “so walk away and let this die tonight.”

Any Other Mirror has a shuffling, sixties arrangement, as Bill and Aidan become Scotland’s alternative to Bacharach and David. Percussion and Bill’s piano combine to create a cocktail jazz backdrop. In an instant, Bill and Aidan could be transported to L.A. in 1966.  Mind you, I don’t know whether the beautiful people who populate Tinseltown’s could relate to lyrics like: “and I might be a useless prick, but I feel ugly, old and thick, in any other mirror but you.” However, doubtless, a generation of less fortunate people will raise a smile and a glass to Bill and Aidan.

Thunderous drums open The Unseen Man. They’re joined by washes of synths and cascading chords from Bill’s piano. Meanwhile, Aidan tells the story of one of the macho hard men who populate the streets of certain parts of Scotland. They live to drink, snort and scuffle. Their habitat aren’t the smart clubs. No. It’s “chip shop scuffles,” where they’ll either live or die.  If they return home: “the cupboard is bare.” Never mind, he’ll do it all again next week. 

The introduction to Vanilla is reminiscent of a sixties art house film. That’s until Aidan’s vocal enters. That signals that it’s time for him to delivers his soul seduction supreme. Aidan isn’t exactly transformed into Barry White or Bobby Womack.” No. He’s more in touch with reality on this tale of ships that pass in the night, complete with  “the usual conclusions.”

Drums pound, a hi-hat hisses and stabs of piano play their part in Street Pastor Colloquy, 3AM’s jaunty arrangement. We hear a quite different side of Aidan. He’s transformed into a Caledonian soul singer. However, his caustic wit is omnipresent. After a night carousing, he meets a street pastor. Accompanied  by a sultry saxophone, Aidan’s response is “I don’t need any creed, so keep your Lord, your Bible and your flip flop.” Then when he sings “oh devil, all I  need is you,” that’s the signal for the Glad Café Community Choir to enter. They unleash a glorious fusion of gospel and soul, resulting in the best track on The Most Important Place In The World.

The Eleven Year Glitch sees Bill and Paul head off for an adventure in electro pop. Accompanied by retro synths and Bill’s crystalline piano, Aidan tells the story of a couple whose marriage is over after eleven years. He’s been leading a double life, making out he’s fine, but deep down, he wants out. With a mixture of hope, hurt and Calvinist guilt, he sings: “oh just say you’ll never want me back, walk away and don’t dare come back, but be sure before you pull the trigger.” 

Slowly, and thoughtfully, Bill plays the piano on Far From You. He provides a wistful backdrop for Aidan’s worldweary vocal. He’s far from the one he loves, and misses her badly. However, this being Aidan Moffat, it’s no ordinary love song. Not with lyrics like: “no snakes or snails or puppy tails, I know what you’re made of, if love’s defiled you’re it’s child, when I’m Far From You.” Having said that, it’s a quite beautiful paean from the former Arab Strab frontman.

Closing The Most Important Place In The World is We’re Still Here. It’s a story about the destruction of town centres across Scotland. As Bill deliberately plays the piano, Aidan sings: “we watched the florist wilt…the street ran out of charity…the letting agent’s lost its lease…the jewellers lost its sparkle.” While Aidan laments of how a town’s lost its heart and soul, his refrain is “We’re Still Here.” It’s as if against all odds, “We’re Still Here.”

 The Most Important Place In The World has been worth the four year wait. Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat have returned with a dozen songs about Scotland’s dark underbelly. They’re songs that deserved to be turned into a short film. No wonder. The characters and scenarios are very realistic Macho men, drinkers rub shoulders with dancers, chancers and romancers. They’re responsible for fleeting fumblings, illicit romances and tales of love gone wrong. Even the loves songs have a twist in the tale.

There’s a reason for this. Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat keep it real. They write about what they know, what they’ve seen and experienced. That makes a difference. Far too many songwriters try and write about things they’ve neither experienced nor witnessed. Not Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat. Drawing upon their experiences, they combine caustic wit, cynicism and social comment with tragicomedy. Other times their lyrics are tinged with sadness, hurt and heartbreak as The Most Important Place In The World takes on a late-night sound. Other times, the music is joyous and uplifting, as seamlessly, the flit between musical genres. This they do throughout The Most Important Place In The World, which is without doubt, a fitting followup to Everything’s Getting Older.

I’ll go much further than that. The Most Important Place In The World, which was recently released by Chemikal Underground, surpasses the quality of Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat’s debut album. What’s more, The Most Important Place In The World must be a contender for the Scottish Album Of The Year Award.  

The Most Important Place In The World was released just in time to be nominated for the Scottish Album Of The Year Award. Let’s hope, when the winner of the Scottish Album Of The Year Award is announced, Scottish music’s most unlikely yin and yang, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat will be thanking all and sundry for their help in making The Most Important Place In The World.



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