A reflective, charming, bleak and funny album.
Lou Thomas 2009
Malcolm Middleton spent a decade in an important band named after a sex toy (Arab Strap, not Steely Dan) and in 2008 released a Christmas song called We’re All Going To Die. He’s an accomplished and idiosyncratic songwriter who again delivers the goods on Waxing Gibbous.
Once more, Middleton has made a reflective, charming, bleak and funny album with pals from a relaxed Caledonian indie mafia. Former Strap member Jenny Reeve and King Creosote (aka Kenny Anderson) provide beautiful vocals, while Barry Burns from apocalyptic post-rockers Mogwai tinkles the ivories.
Waxing Gibbous is a winner from the outset with lead single Red Travellin’ Socks, a song which Middleton has described as his Bohemian Rhapsody. Imposing structure aside, it’s more akin to a classic Springsteen hit or one of Doves’ big-hearted anthems, albeit one doused in Irn-Bru.
Kiss At The Station is another unexpected hit, with its great singalong breakdown that recalls the excellent Jack Penate single Tonight’s Today.
Zero meanwhile is in a completely different vein and happily combines rap, organs, a tentative wandering bassline and an interesting blend of real and electronic percussion. It is as refreshing as Paul Hardcastle producing Elbow.
There is still some misery, as evidenced on Don’t Want To Sleep Tonight, but this is confined to the song’s lyrics. Malcolm sings: “Everything I do is redundant, everything I see is a lie” and “I’ve gone and thrown another day away,” but somehow, the effect is charming rather than depressing.
Waxing Gibbous is an album of songs that deserve the sort of heavy radio rotation and media attention which helped Badly Drawn Boy crossover to mainstream success. It’s unlikely that Falkirk chap Middleton really wants or needs the adulation this would bring but after 15 years on the fringes he’s certainly earned it.