It’s fair to say that a new release by Malcolm Middleton who is no longer just known as one half of the defunct Arab Strap, but as an established solo artist in his own right, is quite an anticipated occasion.
After last years’ beautiful mini album Sleight Of Heart, Middleton has re-introduced the full band sound used on albums ‘Into The Woods’ and ‘A Brighter Beat’, which fully engages a rounder, almost poppier sound to his musicianship. It’s a method which had him chasing an unlikely Christmas number one in ’07 with the upbeat ‘We’re All Going To Die’; and he has created an album full of equivocal gems.
It is as close to mainstream crossover as he will allow his music to become, and it develops into a perfect blend of sing-along acoustic balladry you can thoughtfully accompany in blissful solitude. ‘Don’t Want To Sleep Tonight’ carries David Kitt undertones, which speaks volumes for Middleton as a solo artist as the album is also strewn with his established moments of desolation.
Known for his melancholy, a gentle aching track is never far away, and with ‘Carry Me’, he has again produced something which can easily bring me to tears as the sound of his broad Scottish accent shatters the humbling acoustics and speaks straight to the part of you which has been hurt before. Despite his reputation, Middleton’s songs are far from depressing or miserable, and the delightfully titled ‘Ballad Of Fuck All’ allows for a stop and concentrate moment which rather than deflates, causes retrospect and a sense of fulfilment which echoes the strength of his music.
For fans of Malcolm Middleton’s previous work, Waxing Gibbous is a joy to listen to, and perhaps a vital one as the man himself says that it may be his last for a while. So until further tidings are upon us, engross yourself in the toe thumping, gleeful tales of constant touring with the single ‘Red Travelling Socks’, or the delicate piano led introspective of closer ‘Made Up Your Mind’.
Embrace the melancholy, it is inspiring.
Words: Peter Clark