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Entering The Dragon

It’s been some time since I didn’t go to a single gig in a month but other than the Chemikal nights at Celtic Connections there wasn’t much to really grab my attention. And now January’s all but gone.

February’s looking more positive though with the Tidal Wave of Indifference show featuring PAWS and Edinburgh School for the Deaf at the Wee Red Bar on the 25th the standout at the moment with plenty of other possibles swimming around.

But here’s something from the acts that I didn’t see at Celtic Connections in the last 8 days.

First off Emma Pollock being eaten by a dragon …

Then Zoey van Goey speaking French on a very big Tyrannosaur sized stage:

Malcolm Middleton also on the continent:

And finally FOUND acoustic in a forest:

Celtic Chemikal Connections

To be honest, there was little in the original Celtic Connections programme to excite me or at least sufficiently to warrant a trip from Fife to Glasgow. However there was the promise of 2 Chemikal Underground curated shows with line-ups to be announced.

Well, they’ve been announced and they feature (just about) all of the big guns.

Show 1 is on the 24th January and playing are FOUND, Malcolm Middleton (possibly as HDBA) and Rick Redbeard (Rick from the Phantom Band). [Tickets]

Mouthwatering as that is, it may be topped by Show 2 on the 31st featuring Emma Pollock, Zoey van Goey and Wounded Knee. [Tickets]

Both shows are at Brel (a venue I’ve never visited) and tickets are just a fiver. Can’t see me making two midweek trips to Glasgow on Tuesday nights but I need to go to one!

But the question is … which one?

The MPT Singles/EPs of 2011

It’s been a good year for the short form releases this year. There have been some years when I seem to have hardly bought any singles or E.P.s but not 2011. Here’s the best baker’s dozen of releases (and I’ve not included the likes of Panda Su nor the Young Spooks …)

E.P. of the Year

50 Foot Wave – With Love From The Men’s Room

Simply the best Wave E.P. to date, this was Kristin and co at their exhilarating best. Actually Kristin’s only new release of 2011 but it’s so good that doesn’t seem to matter. And best of all you can download it legitimately for free. Go on. Do it. Then spread the word.

Chocolate single of the Year

FOUND – Anti-Climb Paint

What do you do with a chocolate single? Play it? Eat it? We did both – here’s the video of the first part at least.

And let’s not forget that, amid all the chocolate, that it’s a bloody great song from a brilliant LP. Probably band of the year. No, make that definitely. [Download] Fuck, I look old in that video!

Download single of the Year

Edinburgh School for the Deaf- Orpheus Descending

It’s inexplicable why they left one of their best songs off the LP and limited its release to only 200. Even more inexplicable was the fact that you could still get it for ages after release. But they’ve gone now. If the band lost a little momentum in the second half of the year following Kieran’s departure, then they appear to be regrouping for further sonic assualts in 2012. Can’t wait.

A live performance of the single from May – in the daylight:

Pop single of the year

Martin John Henry – Ribbon on a Bough

Who knew he had it in him? If Martin has previously more than amply demonstrated his mastery of the intense, ‘Ribbon’ showed an unexpected talent for the throway pop gem. And there were 2 cracking B-sides on the CD version as well – the “title track” from the brilliant LP (which isn’t on the record of couse) and the excellent ‘Woodilee Song’. If you want the CD though, they’re all gone. Download it instead.

Smash-able Keyboard Single of the Year

Mitchell Museum – What We Built

Is this cooler than a chocolate single? Perhaps (although I’ve NOT smashed mine yet!) Supposed to be a single to bridge the gap between the previous LP and the next one, ‘What We Built’ instead turned out to be their swan song. (sob) An amazing burst of adrenaline, the closest they ever came to capturing the energy of the live shows in the studio, with the requisite killer melody.

7″ of the Year

King Creosote/Kid Canaveral – Homerun and a Vow

A joyful collision of Mr Anderson and the Canaverals, the co-written A-side is an absolute joy. The B-side too sung by Kate isn’t half bad either and the emergence of new Kid C material (at last!)  promises great things for the second  LP. [BUY IT]

A live version of the song from London in black and white:

7″ of the Year (2)

Grant Hart – So Far From Heaven

Even a few weeks ago any thoughts of new material from the legendary Grant Hart would have seemed optimistic in the extreme. But, no, Grant was selling this little gem on his recent European tour and you can get it online here (or in Monorail in Glasgow). New LP in 2012? Bring it on!

A live performance of the song:

Split 10″ of the Year

Malcolm Middleton /River of Slime – De-Fence 10×10:08

New material from Malcolm Middleton – unbridled joy! And an intriguing slice of samplery from Kev from FOUND. The De-Fence 10″ EPs are always a little special in terms of material but this one definitely seems to be the most special so far. [Buy it]

3 Track CD of the Year

Cancel The Astronauts – Seven Vices

Not perhaps the most obvious single from the live set, yet still a cracking tune from a band visibly growing in confidence with almost each performance. The 2 non-LP B-sides perhaps best illustrate why that’s the case – 2 great songs amongst a whole slew of new material they’ve written this year. Indeed being so prolific seems to be a major threat to that LP ever getting finished. [Buy it]

Loud electro-rock E.P. of the Year

Birdhead – Talons

Birdhead are such a blast live, it seemed improbable that they could capture that on record. But no, with ‘Talons’ that’s exactly what they’ve done. And, good as the E.P. is, there were more great songs in the live set even back in August. And they’ve written more since. Their hopefully released next year debut LP is a cause for great excitement. Sadly, like several other things on this list, it seems to have sold out

.‘Goth’ E.P. of the Year

Vladimir – Vladimir

Not really goth but these loud young Dundonians took a lot of its best elements and fashioned an impressive debut 5 tracker. ‘Mellow’ is the highlight (and of course it’s anything but mellow) and with another release planned for early in 2012, next year may just be the year of Vladimir. [Buy it]

Song By Toad Records E.P. of the Year

King Post Kitsch – Don’t You Touch My Fucking Honeytone

I liked a lot of what Matthew released in 2011 but nothing more than the King Post Kitsch E.P. A complementary release to the rather good album, other than the title track, all the songs on here weren’t on the LP. But they were just as good as the stuff that did make it. In fact, ‘Alaska’ might be even better. [Buy it]

The ‘Where The Hell Did That Come From?’ E.P. of the Year

Jill Birt – Still Life

Genuinely even more unexpected than a Grant Hart release was the debut solo EP from Triffid Jill Birt. Recorded with assistance from some of her band mates, ‘Still Life’ was a gorgeous, mainly gentle record which promised great things for her debut solo LP – only 20 years after the Triffids initially disbanded!

Jesus Wouldn’t Add You As A Friend – Malcolm Middleton live

Malcolm Middleton

Malcolm Middleton / Human Don’t Be Angry – Electric Circus, Edinburgh – 14th December 2011

One man – two sets. Even if he doesn’t bother to even change (or lose) his hat in between.

The headliner first. There’s a realisation at some point, just how fucking brilliant it is to have Malcolm Middleton back. Actually strike that – those moments come thick and fast. Second tune in – ‘Devastation’, the immortal opening line to ‘Autumn’, the intro to ‘A Brighter Beat’, the classic ‘Blue Plastic Bags’, the new ‘Gone Gone Gone’ (a “cover” of a Human Don’t Be Angry song (!) which he definitely played at Tigerfest last year), a solo ‘Shadows’,  the closing epic ‘Love Comes In Waves’, the list goes on and on.

Inevitably the show takes in the usual deadpan humour and, hilariously, Malcolm even manages to get himself out-heckled on how good new song ‘The Whole World’s Gone To Fuck’ might or might not be.

Classic Middleton in every way and a packed Electric Circus laps it up.

The opening Human Don’t Be Angry, set is a slightly curious mix. In some respects it’s a fairly radical departure, reminiscent of Mogwai at their most languid, largely instrumental built up from Malcolm’s basic electric guitar and added to with loops and samples.

Mostly, it’s utterly captivating, such as the brilliant ‘Asklipiio’, but occasionally, particularly on instrumental  ‘Getting Better (Feeling Shite)’, it meanders to no great purpose.

And yet. The only traditional song (which closes the set,) as well as ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ in the main set, aren’t that far removed from the solo incarnation.

Whatever. The ‘solo stuff’ is likely to be on the back burner for most of 2012 in favour of Human Don’t Be Angry with the intriguing prospect that forthcoming LP ‘Midnight Noodles’ may be promoted with the help of other musicians.

But when the darkest month draws round again in 12 months time, don’t be surprised to see Malcolm on the road again under his own name – these tours seem to be becoming a permanent fixture in the run-up to Christmas.

Malcolm Middleton setlist

1. Four Cigarettes  2. Devastation  3. Monday Night Nothing  4. Autumn  5. Week Off  6. A Brighter Beat  7. We’re All Going To Die  8. Blue Plastic Bags  9.  Gone, Gone, Gone  10. Pants Down (?)  11. Choir  12. Shadows  13. Moments  14. Love Comes In Waves


15. Burst Noel  16. The Whole World’s Going To Fuck  17. The Loneliest Night of My Life Came Calling  18. Fuck It, I Love You  19. Devil and the Angel

Spot the difference! – Human Don’t Be Angry

Depressed In The East, Depressed In The West – Malcolm Middleton LP review

When I’m writing LP reviews, I always try and quote a lyric from one of the songs as the title of the piece. And with Malcolm Middleton, that can be quite difficult as he tends to write a lot of quotable lyrics.

But his ‘A Quarter Past Shite’ LP gives me an added dimension to this particular dilemma. Pander to the (not entirely accurate) miserable Malcolm image (which isn’t that hard to do since the publicity for ‘Quarter Past’ talks of the material being too depressing for his first solo LP!)? Or break the mould a little. Stuff it, I’m going to pander. (c.f. Edinburgh Zoo. Ahem. Sorry.)

Actually the contents of ‘Quarter Past’ are a bit surprising. The publicity suggested an odds and sods compilation but the sleeve notes instead suggest that this is a coherent recording of a set of songs from a particular time.

Whatever the origin of the set, the 18 songs are all unreleased and without doubt contain a few gems. All delivered solo acoustic, the guitar is played with verve and enthusiasm which tends to undermine the morenegative and depressingthan5:14 fluoxytine seagull alcohol john nicotineangle .

Because there are undoubtedly some happier tunes in there (‘Penny’s Place’ for one) and there’s nothing depressing about the backing to the likes of ‘Sacred City’.

Lyrically the album covers ground familiar to the long term Middleton fan – self loathing, ugliness, black humour and the theft of pogo sticks.

There are a few rough edges too, all of which suggests that this is a record more for the Malcolm diehards rather than the public at large. But if you’ve got this far, the chances are that you’re one of the former.

In which case you can buy ‘A Quarter Past Shite’ in person on Malcolm’s current UK tour or in Monorail Records in Glasgow. Or you can pre-order the thing (along with the Human Don’t Be Angry live LP) at his Bandcamp. And it’s pre-order as in ships on the 15th.

How Can We Make This A Better Place? – Malcolm Middleton/River of Slime split single

Another day and another piece of vinyl arrives in the mail, although this time it’s too big to be forced through the letterbox. No, it’s a 10″ split single featuring River of Slime and (pause for dramatic effect) …  new material from Malcolm Middleton.

Malcolm first.

‘Where have I gone? Where did I go? / Has anyone seen me? Did I even leave a note?”

The chorus of ‘A.W.L.’ could be a wry comment on his temporary retiral of the last couple of years but, much as I’m looking forward to the Human Don’t Be Angry album in the New Year, it’s really nice to have him back under his own name.

Musically there’s a pleasing simplicity to the three acoustic numbers which seems to hark back to the ‘Into the Woods’ / ‘A Brighter Beat’ era. A reaction against the polygamy of ‘Waxing Gibbous’? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s just that the format suits the nature of the project.

Whatever – ‘Big Style’ and ‘A.W.L’ are certainly indicators that the man can still write effective 3 minute pop songs whilst ballad ‘The Whole World Is Going To Fuck’ is not just a brilliant title.

Meanwhile the River of Slime side of the E.P. (Kev from FOUND’s side project) is an entirely different kettle of fish built entirely from samples. I was interested more than excited by the one time I’ve seen RoS live, but getting the chance to listen to this on record (even if it is apparently a live recording!) it feels far more coherent than that day.

I’m a bit out of my comfort zone on this one but there’s enough focus to keep my interest. I’ve never managed to get round to checking out the free River of Slime LP released in the summer but, on this evidence, that’s a mistake that should be rectified as quickly as possible.

The E.P. is the eighth in De-Fence’s 10 x 10 series which gives you not just the 10″ vinyl but also a CD-R of the songs.

You can buy De-Fence 10 x 10:08 here.

Malcolm tours the UK very soon with dates in Edinburgh (Electric Circus – 14th December) and Glasgow (Oran Mor – 15th) with support from Human Don’t Be Angry. Both Scottish dates look like they might be sold out since there are no tickets available from Ticketbastard. Compilation LP ‘A Quarter Past Shite’ will be available at the shows.

River of Slime is currently in India with the rest of FOUND!


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