Expect to see this on the Mercury list come nomination time.
Chris Long 2007
Having dealt with casual sex, afternoon soaps, serious drinking sessions and sneaking peaks at people’s diaries in his previous life as one half of Arab Strap, it’s possibly not that surprising that Malcolm Middleton has finally come to consider the big one: death.
Still, as opening couplets to albums go, ‘we’re all going to die/and what if there’s nothing?’ probably ranks amongst the bleakest. And yet, A Brighter Beat is such an unashamedly life-affirming album, it’s hard to believe it could come from it.
It’s all down to the juxtaposition of his lyrics and music, showed off perfectly by the title track, which may deal in despairing words, but has a push and pump of a backing beat so toe-tappingly danceable that it becomes impossible not to smile to.
Always a fine songwriter in his Strap days (and of course, on his previous solo outings), he’s managed to raise his own bar on A Brighter Beat, with ‘’Fight Like The Night’’ and ‘’Up Late At Night Again ‘’deserving particular praise.
The former is a duet-cum-fight between Middleton and The Reindeer Section’s Jenny Reeve that surges with enormous choruses and hurtling pop sensibilities, while the latter is the kind of epic indie that Snow Patrol dream of writing, complete with haunting breaks, massive strings and the show-stopping, heart-wrenching hook of a line - ‘if I go first, I’ll tell you what it’s like.’
In equal proportions epic and intimate, ridiculously pop and rampantly experimental, A Brighter Beat is the kind of album that makes a career. Following on from the greatness of his last solo work, Into The Woods, and the decade of unfathomable brilliance he supplied with Arab Strap, it is a stunning work.
It turns out that his opus to death has actually been the perfect start to his new solo life. Expect to see this on the Mercury list come nomination time.