Former Arab Strap guitarist Malcolm Middleton returns to Glasgow’s seminal alternative label Chemikal Underground in 2012 with his self-titled debut album as Human Don’t Be Angry. Named in honour of the German version of board game Frustration ("Mensch ärgere Dich nicht"), the album was recorded at Chem19 studios during October 2011 alongside producer and drum programmer Paul Savage, with live drum parts from Middleton’s old Arab Strap partner Aidan Moffat.
‘HDBA is a facade, a front so I can have fun again musically,’ says Middleton, who describes himself as having felt bored and restricted by what he jokingly refers to as the ‘heart-on-sleeve complaining’ of his solo work. ‘I thought I'd go back to what I enjoy,’ he says, ‘which is playing guitar and writing melodies.’
The original idea to create an album of gentle guitar instrumentals and drum-free ambient atmospherics was soon put paid to when Middleton entered the studio with Savage, as drum tracks were added and lyrics emerged for some of the songs, albeit often as poetic repetitions of phrases rather than structured verse-chorus-verse affairs. The words fit with the laid-back air of the music and help showcase Middleton’s often under-rated skill as a guitarist, leaving the sense that he’s made ‘more of an album I'd want to listen to than the one I thought I wanted to make.’
Song titles like ‘Jaded’ and ‘Getting Better (At Feeling Like Shit)’ are a tongue-in-cheek diversion from an album which is musically breezy and upbeat, although the emotional bittersweetness you might expect from the man who wrote ‘We’re All Going to Die’ is never far from the surface. ‘It's only recently I've realised how the record is also influenced by my childhood and the 1980s,’ jokes Middleton. ‘Song titles like ‘The Missing Plutonium’, ‘After the Pleasuredome’ and ‘1985’ refer to Back to the Future, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Live Aid. Obviously Jan Hammer and Iron Maiden are in there too...’
So Human Don’t Be Angry is a refresher before Middleton returns re-energised to his solo career, but it’s also here to stay as a new creative avenue. Songs have been written for the second album, and he can’t wait to see what Paul Savage does with them ‘to remove my 2D expectations.’
Doors: 8 p.m.
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