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Malcolm Middleton

+ {Human Don’t Be Angry}

Dumfries-born/Falkirk-raised guitarist MALCOLM MIDDLETON (b. 31 December 1973) was better known to acolytes of post-Trainspotting combo ARAB STRAP. Along with spirited spokesman AIDAN MOFFAT, Malcolm helped rescue a creatively ailing Scottish indie scene by means of “fly on the wall duvet vignettes” (as described by the NME). Ten years of tears between 1996 and 2006, ARAB STRAP’s inevitable parting of the waves heralded a fresh beginning for both parties, Malky (and a host of wee celebrity muckers) having already shed two sad-core sets for Chemikal Underground.
2002’s long-winded 5:14 FLUOXYTINE SEAGULL ALCOHOL JOHN NICOTINE {*7} was strummer Malcolm taking the mic; `Crappo The Clown’ a prime example on where his fragile miserabilist mind was at the time. Awkward and depressingly honest with sprawling sections of backing from friends Barry Burns (of MOGWAI) and Jenny Reeve (of Eva), it was the swirling melodies and atmospheric flirtations that pulled through selections `The Best In Me’, `Cold Winter’ and `The Loneliest Night Of My Life Came Calling’.
Buoyed by a couple of sprightly singles `Loneliness Shines’ and `Break My Heart’, INTO THE WOODS (2005) {*7} was indeed in an altogether better place. Analysing his weary world through eyes looking out to a future, rather than through the bottom of an end-of-evening beer glass (bar a few glum-core tunes `Autumn’ and `Devastation’), the monotone MIDDLETON sketches out self-loathing introspective that, this time around, become therapeutic rather than maudlin. Not that far removed from the maddening crowd of the ‘Strap, `Bear With Me’ and `A Happy Medium’ sparkle, while the Emma Pollock-enhanced `Solemn Thirsty’ remind one they might be missing The DELGADOS.
Severing connections with both ARAB STRAP and Chemikal Underground, MIDDLETON inked a deal with Full Time Hobby Records. Retaining long-time cohorts Burns, Reeve, drummer Paul Savage (another from The DELGADOS) and roping in Mick Cooke (on brass), A BRIGHTER BEAT (2007) {*7} was more or less what it said on the tin; cover shot courtesy of artist friend David Shigley, a name we’ll hear more of – read on. Described by Malcolm himself as “love songs for depressed people…”, opening salvo `We’re All Going To Die’ was atypical of the singer’s warped sense of humour. Repeated plays on DJ Colin Murray’s Radio 1 show elevated the quirky song to cult status, especially when the 1000-1 shot was hyped against all odds (duly cut to 9-1) to become the Xmas 2007 number one as an internet plot to curb X-Factor and its winner Leona Lewis doing the deed; there was much sinister prestige in the track dying a death at No.31. Sales of the aforementioned third album had already peaked some ten months previously, enlightened by the title track and at least three further gems, `Fuck It, I Love You’, `Somebody Loves You’ and Malc’s blueprint for life `Death Love Depression Love Death’.
Almost reminiscent of LLOYD COLE in his prime, `Week Off’ was a pleasantly optimistic opening on album four, SLEIGHT OF HAND (2008) {*7}. Declaring “staying in is the new going out” for follow-on dirge `Blue Plastic Bags’, MIDDLETON’s melancholy miserabilism was par for the course. Affected by folk and pop music in equal measures, the dour indie man also tackled JACKSON C. FRANK’s `Just Like Anything’ and MADONNA’s `Stay’, albeit in his own distinctive manner.
Breaking free from his moribund shackles, `Red Travellin’ Socks’ (from fifth set WAXING GIBBOUS (2009) {*8}) was performed in break-neck speed; surely his finest 5 minutes up to now. An artist that deserved a bigger audience than the several thousand from indie-land, MIDDLETON’s insular patter had probably been his Achilles heel – tempting as `Ballad Of Fuck All’, `Carry Me’ and feisty finale `Love On The Run’ were to his loyal disciples.
Putting his trust in these followers, the singer’s concert attributes were tested on 2010’s MALCOLM MIDDLETON’S “LONG, DARK NIGHT” {*6} and 2011’s LIVE IN LEEDS {*6}, the latter introducing his other solo project HUMAN DON’T BE ANGRY {*6}, whose aforesaid eponymous set went rather unnoticed outside the confines of its patrons Chemikal Underground.
Teaming up with Scottish visual artist turned poet David Shrigley (under the Melodic imprint), the pair of friends played to the “Derek & Clive’s” among us by releasing the OTT and thoroughly explicit WORDS & MUSIC (2014) {*8}. Augmented by others out for a laugh (namely actress Bridget McCann on the f-in’ hilarious `Story Time’, plus Gavin Mitchell and Scott Vermeire), MIDDLETON took his biggest risks; the risks coming under the offensive microscope being `A Toast’, `Houseguest’, `Walker’ and the sonic `Monkeys’. Shrigley is no Murray Lachlan-Young, but he certainly played for the shock value. However, if one’s easily offended, stuck-up, stiff-upper-lipped and of a nervous disposition (you know who you are!), steer clear.
If a solo MIDDLETON was taking er… `Steps’ – the hook-line opening title of 2016’s SUMMER OF ’13 {*7} – to rid himself of any previous bawdy tie-ins, then for the most part it worked. Hitched up to Nude Music Ltd (once home to SUEDE and GENEVA), the electro-inspired singer-songwriter was free to express elements of introspection alongside fellow Scots assistants MIAOUX MIAOUX (aka producer Julian Corrie) and LONE PIGEON (aka Fifer, Gordon Anderson); the drum-stool was occupied by FIRST AID KIT’s Scott Simpson. In homage to the lyrics of `Imagine’ and the former BEATLES icon in general, `Like John Lennon Said’ was a touching sentiment, while Malcolm’s warm, vernacular brogue was the star attraction on `Music Ticks’, the piano-led `Big Black Hole’ (his own `Wherever I Lay My Hat That’s My Home’) and the NEW ORDER-esque `You & I’, `Brackets’ and `Little Hurricane’.
Worthy wordsmith MALCOLM MIDDLETON spent a few years planning and recording his seventh album, BANANAS (2018) {*7}. Dispatched via download or on limited-edition vinyl by Triassic Tusk, a small imprint from East Neuk in Fife, the sarcastic Scotsman took on a humorous and hope-driven approach on looking at depression and heartbreak; opener `Gut Feeling’, `Twilight Zone’ and `Love Is A Momentary Lapse In Self-Loathing’ were prime examples that contrasted deeply with catchy tunes, `That Voice Again’, `Buzz Lightyear Helmet’ and the electro-fied `Man Up Man Down’.
© MC Strong 2004/GRD // rev-up MCS Jan2015-Nov2018

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