Sometime Arab Strap merchant, serial collaborator, infamous miserablist and (probably) no relation to Kate or Pippa, Malcolm Middleton has an album out with poet and visual artist David Shrigley soon. It’s called Music And Words. Middleton wrote the music, Shrigley the words. This surely approaches the very definition of ‘no nonsense’.
“I misinterpreted the meaning of David’s words so created a certain style of music to accompany the wrong themes,” admits Middleton of the album’s non-existent narrative. “I took one song ‘Sunday Morning’ to be a scathing attack on the pomp and arrogance of religion, only to be informed that it’s just about willies and was recorded on a Sunday morning. It makes for an interesting record though.”
Ahead of the album’s release and his hosting of two gigs at King Tuts in Glasgow – 13 December with a full band show and the following night with an acoustic one – Middleton pulls together childhood influences and albums released just last year in a This Music Made Me selection that suggests not only an open mind but a disinterest in pigeonholey genrefication that chimes similar to our own…
Jackson C Frank – Blues Run The Game
I first heard this back in 2005 at the recommendation of a guy working as a sound engineer for the BBC in Edinburgh. I can’t remember his name, but thank you. He must’ve been watching me play and realised that I too used a capo all the time and was pretty conservative about using more than three frets per song. Some people say this is laziness but it’s more of an Occam’s Razor thing if you ask me. And I don’t like the low frets on acoustic guitars, the vibration is tougher and it makes fretting more difficult. Or I’m just lazy.
Anyway the guy said I might like this album so I went away and bought it and did. I think it’s influenced my playing a lot, although I’m nowhere near as good as he was. It made me want to learn all his songs, which I hadn’t done with anyone since I was 14 and first learning to play. And it helped me to stop worrying about whither to bother using all those other frets.
I never did quite master his songs but the attempt alone brought me forward as a guitar player.
Herman’s Hermits – Greatest Hits
This is the album I’ve listened to most these past 2 years, alongside John Denver. It’s too early to say yet how much of an influence it’s been on me but I guess time will tell.
I like the simplicity of the songs and the instant hooks. Not a very cool band though, as my Mum keeps telling me. Not as good as The Merseybeats.
Faith No More – The Real Thing
I’m trying to go for the albums I’ve actually spent the most time listening to, and not just picking the “cool” stuff.
I prefer their first two albums now, but when this came out and I was heavily into my metal it blew me away. It was like pouring fresh spring sunshine over my head every morning as I trudged to school in the rain. Massive drums, melodies about who cares what and slabs of perfectly combed guitars. I saved up and bought the exact same bass as Bill Gould because of this album and it’s the same one I’ve used on every record I’ve ever made. Even the most lo-fi ones have this really fruity bass sound.
If you see past all the crap funk metal stuff and the albums that came after, this is a very powerful and enjoyable listen. Loud as you can.
John Denver – Greatest Hits
If you like something, never watch a made-for-TV movie about it. I watched the JD biopic recently and it almost ruined our friendship. But I think we’re ok now.
Another great record for doing the dishes too, in the Spring. This album knocks our hit after hit after hit, and it’s amazing that he was so prolific for the recording of a single album.
I’m still not sure how best to write about music, but this album is really, really good.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome To The Pleasuredome
I don’t care about all the rubbish surrounding the release and production of this album. If you’re an 11 year old boy in 1984 and you’re listening to Adam & The Ants and Madonna, this is going to blow your head right off.
I had no idea what they were singing about or who they were, and I didn’t care. The world was about to end in WW3 and the unemployed were going to be given guns and I wanted to be in a band but not like Wham!. I was slightly too young for punk so this was my danger thing for a month or two, before settling back into Madonna’s groove again because Papa Don’t Preach was so fucking amazing. I still love Frankie and I think their two albums are perfect.
And I still have arguments about their version of Born To Run being better than Brucie’s. Yeah whatever, choose your side.
Metallica – Ride The Lightning
Music should be listened to without worrying about what sort of dicks are playing it, right? That’s the given I assume of all my fans. I remember buying this in 1991 and wasn’t really expecting much from it. I’d borrowed …And Justice For All from my local library and taped it (sorry Lars) and thought it was ok but that Iron Maiden were still better.
So I bought this on my birthday (December 31st) on 12” picture disc, and then went to my part-time job as a waiter, before going on to meet my two friends for Hogmany celebrations. It was raining. They didn’t turn up. I took the bus home and fell in love with this album. It’s very melodic and very aggressive, and the guitar sound is just right.
It still sounds great today and I know I’m showing my age and everything but no heavy metal band has surpassed this.
Prong – Primitive Origins
I’m surprised myself at how often I revisit this album. It’s rough and fast and ugly but appealing. Non-stop hits. And really short.
Maybe don’t bother too much about their later funky stuff, just enjoy this one.
In fact, pretend there’s no music press to write about them and that mobile phones are an impossibility and then you’ll really enjoy this album.
Susanne Sundfør – The Silicone Veil
I’m ashamed to say that I became aware of this album one Saturday afternoon whilst doing the dishes and listening to the Dermot O’Leary BBC 2 Radio programme.
I should point out here that I am in no way ashamed of doing the dishes. Anyway, I think this is a really great modern pop record. The songwriting is dark and nice and amazing (yes, I have an ‘A’ in Higher English, why flex that muscle here though).
Her voice is also really, really good. I have listened to this record a lot.
Trespassers William – Different Stars
Thanks to my mate Compilation Stu for this one (that should be pretty self-explanatory).
This album would be great listened to, for example, if your band of 10 years was having a farewell tour and you needed something to soundtrack your sleeping pills and drown out the noise from the younger band members’ party room next door in the Travelodge.
Warpaint – The Fool
Again, this is something I’ve listened to loads in the past few years. I don’t really listen to much music these days, unless I’m doing the dishes, but when I love something I tend to play it to death.
It’s great when you find an album like that, something that sounds like a proper “piece”, and not just a couple of hits, filler and some covers. I like the playing, the songs, the hooks, the atmosphere.
I think it was the only album I listened to in 2012.
Malcolm Middleton’s album with David Shrigley, Music And Words, is out on 15 December 2014 through Melodic. Further information and tour dates can be found here.