Malcolm Middleton may be best known as one half - the musical half at the back of the stage - of Arab Strap, but he’s released some fantastic solo music too since the Strap split up in 2006. His latest musical offerings are released under the name Human Don’t Be Angry, including new album Electric Blue, out now on Chemikal Underground.
Middleton formed Arab Strap with Aidan Moffat in the early 90s, and they went on to form a central part of the mid-90s Glasgow indie scene, alongside Belle & Sebastian and Mogwai. They were - and still are - a unique proposition, with Middleton’s lo-fi electro-acoustic accompaniments complementing perfectly Moffat’s bracingly honest vocals about his private life. Over later albums, Middleton’s music grew in ambition and scope, and both men started to record and release solo work.
Middleton’s first solo album was the catchily named 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine in 2002. As the first record to foreground Middleton himself, it earned him an enduring reputation as a miserablist, because it was certainly melancholic. “It's a cliché but I wrote it because I was feeling so shit at the time” he later told The Skinny. “I needed to get it out”. In 2005 he released Into The Woods, which The Skinny rated as the twentieth best Scottish record of that decade; and two years later - after the Arab Strap split was confirmed - came A Brighter Beat. “In my head, the best thing I’ve ever done was Brighter Beat,” he later told The Skinny, “but I like Into the Woods because it’s such a funny record.”
“I started Human Don’t Be Angry in 2010 as a reaction to being a bit tired of my songwriting,” Middleton says on his website. He elaborated to The Skinny “I was asked to play the Fence Away Game on the isle of Eigg a couple of years ago, and I said I’d do it as long as I was under a different name. I had two months in which I wrote most of the songs that are on the album, in a creative burst of enthusiasm that seemed to come from not having to write ‘Malcolm Middleton’ songs.”
So, Human Don’t Be Angry songs might be said to be cheerier, generally, and featuring a lot less vocals. His first Human Don’t Be Angry release was a self-titled album in 2012, which was shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year award, and he followed that up with second HDBA LP Electric Blue in 2015. In the meantime he also released a new album under his own name, Music and Words, using lyrics by visual artist David Shrigley.
Malcolm Middleton discography as half of Arab Strap
The Week Never Starts Round Here (1996)
Elephant Shoe (1999)
The Red Thread (2001)
Monday at the Hug & Pint (2003)
The Last Romance (2005)
Malcolm Middleton solo discography
5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine (2002)
Into The Woods (2005)
A Brighter Beat (2007) (The Skinny review)
Sleight of Heart (2008) (The Skinny review)
Waxing Gibbous (2009) (The Skinny review)
Music and Words (2014) (The Skinny review)
Human Don’t Be Angry discography
Human Don't Be Angry (2012) (The Skinny review)
Electric Blue (2015)