ARAB STRAP Bongo for your brassiere? Neale Smith

Modern rock's pornographic troubadours, like reliably lascivious Afzghan Whigs/Twilight Singers frontman Greg Dulli, or the more theologically inclined Nick Cave, owe big debts to Leonard Cohen, particularly his 1974 release, New Skin for the Old Ceremony. Cohen's career-reviving release was a shockingly deviant, deliciously dark slice of what happens when a singer-songwriter grows weary of cloaked references to temporary trysts and decides to bust out couplets like "You were the manual orgasm/I was the dirty little boy," or explicitly recollect an episode of awkward oral sex with Janis Joplin.

As the similarly vampy and vulgar voice of Scotland's Arab Strap, Aidan Moffat has continued the tradition throughout the band's decade-long career, focusing his tart-tongued lyrics on everything tawdry and tangled that a sexually adventurous Gen X-er might want to encounter, from liquor- and drug-fueled fuckfests to the lifestyle's darker passages when dirty sheets become tear stained and the cold light winking through the bedroom window illuminates human nature's more pathetic and lonely moments.

It's the latter that Moffat and his musical partner Malcolm Middleton (still impressively tasteful in his use of propulsive guitars, poignant piano, and precisely timed waves of shuddering distortion) have chosen to focus on with their sixth studio release, The Last Romance. The album may kick off with predictable Moffat-isms like "Burn these sheets that we've just fucked in" or "Just be polite now and get down and lick her/I think it's time we both get dressed," but all that ribald ribbing soon gives way to a refreshing sense of vulnerability, revealing how all those one-night stands often add up to more existential dilemmas than orgasmic epiphanies. Lyrics like "If we're having so much fun than how come I'm crying every Monday?/Is it just to cancel out the laughter from Thursday till Sunday?" show a more nuanced viewpoint that occasionally dips precipitously toward self-pity, but retains enough perverse proselytizing to keep the old-school fans aroused.

hlevin@thestanger.com