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Sleight of Heart by Malcolm Middleton

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Reviewed on 11th March 2008.


Sleight of Heart

By Malcolm Middleton

Middleton cracked into the public consciousness with the cheerily titled electro-pop single "We're all going to die", briefly in contention for Xmas number one status thanks to Radio 1. He has now changed tack and released this largely acoustic album of 'leftovers and tying up of loose ends', including a selection of covers. Normally when these albums are released they are either filled with wonderful curios and rarities, hello Pisces Iscariot by the Smashing Pumpkins, or are filled with material which fell on the cutting room floor with good reason, hello Led Zeppelin's Coda. This emphatically falls in the first category.

The album is filled with Middleton's musings and observations of modern life, and love delivered in an almost monotone Scottish drawl over the limited instrumentation. Track two Blue Pastic Bags is about either British drinking culture or the inevitable creep of Middleton's middle age: "we're all listening to downbeat shite, we overdid the good times, now we can't sleep at night". Through the album Middleton seems to be gazing in the mirror of the human race and being displeased with what he sees. Take track three "total belief": "I woke late today with a puzzle in mind, I found myself hoping for the destruction of mankind, nothing bad you know and not out of spite".

Three of the eight tracks on the album are covers, including the obligatory slightly left field pop cover - in this case Madonna's Stay. He takes Madge's upbeat, chirpy song about love and dedication, slows it down and replaces 80's synth-fizz with his six string and makes it into a new, much more dark and concerning beast.

Track five, Follow Robin Down is, for my money, best track on the album a shimmering shanty of guitar as Middleton finds depressed and unhappy waifs and strays to a place of "Cowboy boots and back catalogues, white Russians and a monologue", for a good dose of empathy from Robin "you can hear him sing his songs, how he bounced off women, where it all went wrong, and the darkness", quite simply lovely and strangely comforting.

In a world with so many prefabricated pop stars, and a cynical music industry owned by multinationals and viewed as investments, Malcolm Middleton represents a little ray of hope and a shaft of light!



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