Gig review: Malcolm Middleton, Edinburgh

A WELL-DESERVED place on last week’s 2012 Scottish Album of the Year award long-list in his Human Don’t Be Angry guise says it all about the successful place Malcolm Middleton is currently at in his solo career, which has now run longer than that of the band with which he originally made his name – Arab Strap.

Malcolm Middleton - Electric Circus, Edinburgh

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Not that he was in any great mood, true to amusingly dolorous form, to celebrate. One new number debuted here, By Proxy Song, glumly addressed “being six albums down with responsibility chasing at my heel”, and the requirement sometimes “to write a s**t song just so the other songs sound better”.

This show partly reached back into Middleton’s solo past too, and his first solo LP, 2002’s not exactly snappily-titled 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine. One of the great unheralded Scottish debuts, it’s been given an 11th anniversary vinyl reissue by Chemikal Underground records, and Middleton performed much of it across a near two-hour set.

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Even if the very bleak subject matter of certain tracks seemed discomforting to revisit. “Jesus christ,” Middleton paused to remark wryly, come one especially bleak line in Cold Winter, “my life is dead and I can’t see a future.”

The rest ranged widely through his substantial oeuvre – from Red Travelling Socks to Devastation and A Brighter Beat – with a glibly self-effacing remark and conspicuous glance at his watch never far away. Nor the odd involuntary spasm of enjoyment, such as when the crowd joined in softly with the “sing along to the sad songs” coda of Blue Plastic Bags. “See what you did?” Middleton grumbled, “I nearly smiled.”

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