Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton

have had an eventful few weeks. First, they've been daftly denounced in sundry Scottish newspapers, as well as a TV newscast by the Lord Provost of their home town, Falkirk. Similarly, one or

two boozed-up Bairns have taken to growling at them in the street.

In addition, one of Aidan's former girlfriends has consulted Falkirk's Citizens' Advice Bureau with a view to suing him for libel. Oh, and the duo have both engaged in what I might describe, were I a brainless tabloid sleaze-trumpet, as simultaneous pre-nuptial intimacies with a new partner. Oo-er!

Talk about a media hoo-hah! Neither Aidan nor Malcolm wants to, actually. They're couthy blokes, see. They prefer to concentrate on being Britain's most tuneful bunch of dirty realist soothsayers, Arab Strap.

Everything went bonkers round Brockville when, during the recent launch of the Strappers' excellent album, Philophobia, the pair calmly told London Times pop scribe Caitlin Moran that Falkirk was as much a small-town dump as every other small-town dump. When they were away from Falkirk, they missed it. When they were there, they wanted out.

Lo and behold, from such unsensational words an enterprising local freelance hack whipped up a storm of indignation which lapped as far as the Daily Express (Shut Your Strap!).

''I now reckon all publicity is bad publicity,'' says Malcolm. ''It's not helped us. The one funny thing was seeing ourselves described as 'Scotland's next big thing' when no-one in Falkirk had ever heard of us.''

Me and yon metropolitan music-paper scribblers were quick to hear of Arab Strap, of course. Two years ago we all praised their debut waxing, The First Big Weekend. Ditto their first album, also released on Glasgow's own Chemikal Underground label, The Week Never Starts Round Here.

Sadly, however, Arab Strap's fairweather champions in the London press have recently begun tarring them with the same brush they're rightly using on Irvine Welsh. Mucky-mouthed Scottish whingers, these erstwhile fans now sneer.

''We're easy to take the piss out of,'' says Aidan. ''The disappointing thing is that it's never done funnily or cleverly enough. I actually think we're only beginning to find a recognisable Arab Strap style.

''So before the papers get stuck in, they should wait till we've developed drink and drugs addictions, been through rehab, found God, broken up, re-formed, toured . . . when we've come out of the other side of the rock'n'roll tunnel.''

Next spring Arab Strap tunnel from one side of the recordbiz to the other: from hip indie label to faceless corporate entities. ''Our Chemikal Underground contract ends in September and we've got engaged to a bigger label. We've slept

with them, but the wedding's not set.

''We had to make the leap of faith. Some indie kids might be put off, but hopefully people are into the band, not simply a label.''

Future plans? Touring America and Europe within the next three months. Playing at T In The Park. ''Playing in a tent can be difficult if, like us, you've mostly got quiet songs,'' says Malcolm. ''It's off-putting to hear folk talk all the way through. We need an attentive audience.''

Who's maybe suing you?

''An un-named girl who believes she's the subject of a song on the new LP - which she is,'' says Aidan. ''I've never told a lie in any song.''

Let Arab Strap have their honest say. You'll enjoy learning a great deal from them.