CD Into the Woods [Malcolm Middleton] (CD 126493),
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Into the Woods [Malcolm Middleton]
1. Break My Heart
3. Loneliness Shines
4. No Modest Bear
5. Monday Night Nothing
6. Bear with Me
7. Happy Medium, A
9. Burst Noel
11. Solemn Thirsty
12. New Heart, A
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 5
Geoff Allan; Paul Savage
Personnel: Stuart Braithwaite (guitar); Jenny Reeve (violin); Alan Barr (cello); Barry Burns (piano, Fender Rhodes piano); Aidan Moffat, Paul Savage (drums).
Recording information: CaVa Sound Workshops, Glasgow, Scotland; Chem 19, Hamilton, Bermuda; Salvation Studio, Falkirk, Scotland.
Into the Woods, Malcolm Middleton's second solo album, begins with one of the better songs that says "I'm screwed either way." If his new love doesn't break his heart, his career will be over. (He's not one to write happy songs.) If his new love does break his heart, he'll at least have his "sh*t songs." Both scenarios have their advantages, but those advantages come with disadvantages -- which can be sort of rationalized into advantages. (That might just be wishful thinking.) Into the Woods is, for the most part, louder, more extroverted, and less messy than 2003's 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine the Pawn Art School Dance Doo-Dah. Middleton seems to be over whatever apprehensions he had as a vocalist -- he's just as capable as Arab Strap partner Aidan Moffat and sounds a lot more comfortable here -- and it's quite probable that he realized the potential he has to make a real, proper album without so many visible stitches. (5:14, while nothing to sniff at, certainly had all the characteristics of a stray-idea, hastily assembled, home-recorded, "let me sing" side release. If any bad words were directed at it, Middleton could've taken the easy way out by responding, "Yeah, well, they were just sketches.") Without paying attention to the words, it'd be easy to think that Middleton's life has taken a sharp turn upward -- only a couple arrangements could be categorized as glum. But it's mostly the same old Middleton, taking himself down, cursing everything in and out of sight, and cracking jokes at his own expense. As if further support were needed for the notion that Arab Strap have two remarkable (and remarkably productive) songwriters, here's some more. And if you've always appreciated Arab Strap's lyrics but wished the actual music were a little livelier and at least two-dimensional with greater frequency, this should be right up your alley. ~ Andy Kellman
Entertainment Weekly (No. 834, p.143) - "...[T]uneful...Middleton's dark humor, silly puns, ("Bear With Me"), and vibrant arrangements bring some sunlight and warmth to his lager-soaked heart." - Grade: B+
Magnet (p.101) - "Middleton is neither dreary nor seditionary - merely superb....Middleton astutely counterbalances his lyrical gloom with uplifting sonics."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.58) - Ranked #8 in Mojo's "The 50 Best Albums Of 2005" - "[H]is brutish wit was allied to a surprising melodic uplift to produce this modern pop masterpiece."
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