This was a lineup for the cognoscenti of the Scottish music scene – former angry/sad young men and Arab Strap bandmates Middleton & Moffat are names to make even the tiredest of gig-goers’ ears prick up.
For their second music night, the Margins organisers really pulled out the stops, even teasing us on their website “Malcolm and Aidan’s Arab Strap reunion in November sold out in less than an hour…and who can rule out a few songs together here?” Alas no such meeting of musical minds happened but that didn’t detract from a great gig.
Moffat has in a sense reinvented himself as a bard-like elder statesman of the Scottish music scene, dispensing wisdom, anger, humour and musings on sex in a vaguely Burns-esque manner. If that seems too high-praise, too far fetched, consider Aidan’s purchase of a funeral suit in The Copper Top, which he thought might also do for a wedding and forthcoming christening, “Birth, love and death; the only reasons to get dressed up.”
The lyrics recall Arab Strap’s finest moments – accepting the travails of life without slipping into despondency. The honesty and emotion invested in Aidan’s wordcraft and delivery actually make for an uplifting mood – that dark humour we Scots are famed for.
Wells & Moffat’s album “Everything’s Getting Older”, is a thing of beauty which translates magically to the live arena; an arena Messrs. Moffat and Wells leave urging us to “use your time wisely, look after your teeth and try not to hurt anyone.”
After the emotional intensity of Aidan Moffat’s set, Middleton’s Human Don’t Be Angry project had a tough act to follow. Literally. The title of the album and the group are, according to Malcolm’s own website “a bit different to what I’ve been doing live lately; less ambient and more upbeat I’d say.” Certainly the set bears this out; it’s a long way from the Arab Strap days and more in a kraut-rock vein – the first two songs are entirely instrumental – a far remove from the sombre acoustic outings of his previous solo work.
Cocooned – protected? – by keyboards and his I-Book, Middleton fed his guitar through a range of effects pedals, underpinned by the excellent work of his band; themselves Scottish music scene ‘faces’. Featuring erstwhile De Rosa frontman Martin John Henry on bass, Jonny Scott behind the drums and Paul Mellon on the other guitar, they powered along with their leader on Dreamer and set closer Asklippio and kept it quiet in just the right places for the more ambient pieces. I say pieces rather than songs because it feels a bit like a suite of music; not in any awful 70s prog-rock concept way but more akin to, say, Peter Broderick’s latest material.
The set builds nicely from the instrumental openers and ambient chirrups through some head-nodders to vocal tracks – featuring Henry on backing – as the show reaches its crescendo. The album, out next month on Glasgow label Chemikal Underground, is sure to satisfy even those for whom the phrase “a change of direction” induces rising panic.