A Brighter Beat
Full Time Hobby
It’s hard to believe that Malcolm Middleton is three albums into his solo career. It seems so recently that Arab Strap called it quits, but it’s been a few years since that death knell sounded. A Brighter Beat, like all of Middleton’s recent work, has all of the musical trimmings that sculpted Arab Stap’s sound: acoustic guitar, bass heavy electronics, molasses-slow drums, etc. He’s amping his work up with every release, though, and with this one, he’s pulling from a number of more contemporary Brit-rock/punk touchstones, where hard-charging riffs abound and spiky power chords put a bounce to rhythms that had previously rarely risen above a lope. “Fight Like the Night” is a perfect example of this; dour acoustic strums usher in the verses and gently build for the pogoing electric guitar clash of the chorus. Middleton hews his sound down the center line throughout the album giving equal time to the rave-ups (“A Brighter Beat,” the exquisite “We’re All Going to Die”) and the reflective slow-burners (“Fuck It, I Love You”, “Stay Close Sit Tight”) and he caps it with “Superhero Songwriters” a bizarre genius mash-up of John Barry James Bond horns and “Hey Jude” pop sprawl.
Lyrically, Middleton stays close to his former outfit’s revelry in sadness, but more often than not, while he might be willing to see the bleakest outcome of any situation — “We’re All Going to Die” provides a great example of this — he also gives a tacit “fuck you” to those people who give up hope in the face of such odds. On “Death Love Depression Love Death” he declares “you can make things happen if you change them” in the midst of a relationship analysis that veers close to obsession with its own end. “Fuck It, I Love You” is probably the sweetest sentiment Middleton has ever been involved in with its refrain of “Fuck it, I love you/ There you go/ Three little words on a mobile phone/ When are you coming home?/ Don’t want to be alone.” Things might not be as relentlessly bleak in his world as they used to be, but his songs are as good as ever.
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