Malcolm Middleton - Accidental Brilliance
Author: Carlisle Rogers
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Middleton’s fourth album, Sleight of Heart, was originally planned to be an acoustic EP, and it has been accused of being a means to cleaning up the loose ends from last year’s meteoric A Brighter Beat. What it is, however, is an album that’s just as strong as his last, if not stronger, a couple of cutting-room-floor classics and covers notwithstanding. Headed to Australia to tour with the new tunes, he’s adamant that they are new tunes.
“I think that’s my fault or the press agent’s,” Middleton confides in his easy, melancholy with a smile way, “because someone said it was like old songs and covers and it doesn’t feel like that to me. It feels like a complete record and it feels nice. It’s not just old crap I found somewhere laying about.
“Sleight of Heart was about not trying to do anything spectacular,” he says. “I’d written a couple of songs last summer; Blue Plastic Bags, Love Comes in Waves, and Follow the Robin Down. The idea was to record an acoustic EP for something to do because I was bored. I had a couple of songs called Week Off and Total Belief which I tried to record for Into the Woods and A Brighter Beat but had never been happy with, and the idea of trying to do some cover songs all came together and the next thing I knew I had nine songs and half a record. I recorded it in four days and was really relaxed. The idea was not to go into production and do a grand statement of what I’m trying to do. I just wanted to relax and have fun and not take myself too seriously.”
And how can you take yourself too seriously when, just last Christmas, your song titled We’re All Going to Die was vying for the number one Christmas spot, a la Love Actually. Sure, it didn’t happen, but it proves people in the UK either take themselves entirely too seriously, or not seriously enough.
Written in Glasgow, Sleight of Heart was produced by Middleton and Paul Savage, who lends drums to the record. Mogwai’s Barry Burns plays piano on the album, and Tony Doogan helps out in the studio. Malcolm says it isn’t the album he intended to make, because he didn’t expect it to be this good.
“I’m really pleased with it now. It’s got a couple of really strong songs like the first one, Week Off, and Total Belief, which I tried to record a couple of years ago and couldn’t, so I’m happy about that. I produced it myself and Paul Savage helped. He does a lot of drumming on the records. There were a lot of struggles on the album, and I trust him, but I had to plan for the album to be entirely acoustic and he kept saying ‘let’s get some drums in here’ and I had to say ‘god no, let’s not’. I kept recording stuff and the next thing you know I had people coming in with violins and all the rest.”
WHO: Malcolm Middleton
WHAT: Sleight of Heart through Full Time Hobby/Inertia / Plays Hopetoun Hotel
WHEN: Out now / Wednesday 7 May