Malcolm Middleton: A Brighter Beat (POD/Rhythmethod)

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Malcolm Middleton: Up Late At Night Again
Malcolm Middleton: A Brighter Beat (POD/Rhythmethod)

If there was a band name attached to this rather than Middleton's you'd be talking a Scottish supergroup. The line-up of players includes members of Mogwai, Belle and Sebastian, Reindeer Section and Delgadoes -- and Middleton was in the duo Arab Strap, a band which (like most of those mentioned) never quite gained a decent foothold in New Zealand.

This is Middleton's third solo album and from the churning opener (with the cheery information that "we're all gonna die") through the more folksy tracks, this one is chock full of musical ideas, great swirling rock songs and driven by his distinctive voice, and sometimes strings and horns. Mostly this just blazes out of the speakers (that opener; Death Love Depression Love Death) with a dark power that invites comparisons with Nick Cave's recent Grinderman project, and the moody melancholy of an Elliott Smith resurrected by Arcade Fire energy.

This album has had unanimous acclaim in Britain: "Triumphant" hailed Mojo; "the mood so majestically bleak you'll laugh for joy" said The Sunday Telegraph; and "one of the year's highlights" according to The Times. He also writes a searingly honest love song: "Fuck you, 'I love you'. There you go, three little words . . . When are you coming home? I don't want to be alone."

Yes, he can be bleak, but as the Telegraph said, you'll laugh for joy. That's when you aren't air punching to the sheer aural attack of some of these melodic and memorable rock-pop songs.

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