" 'The Sunday Mail' came to take my photo yesterday and the photographer said 'Smile'. I said 'No' and he went 'Why ?' And I went' 'Because no one will recognise me !' "

Malcolm Middleton's much acclaimed album, 'A Brighter Beat', chronicled with exact, downbeat humour the angst of the socially awkward, chronically depressed Scots male.

Since being released in February, it has become one of the most successful albums in a decade-long recording career that has seen the Falkirk-born Middleton release five albums with his former band Arab Strap, and another two solo records. Now, after a nearly year of touring 'A Brighter Beat' which has seen Middleton play support dates with both Badly Drawn Boy and Sophia, two headline tours of his own and some festival dates including T in the Park, he is saying farewell to it with two Scottish Christmas shows, one the night before in Glasgow, and this one tonight in Edinburgh.

On the surface all the approval he has received for 'A Brighter Beat' doesn't seem to have made Middleton a happier man. His next album, 'Sleight of Heart', which is due out in early March, and with which he opens tonight's hour and a half long set with a smattering of songs, offers more of the same wry melancholy. "It's easy hating yourself/It's hard making it rhyme" he quips on the first song of the night and what will be the new album's opening number, 'A Week Off'. 'Blue Plastic Bags', about behind-doors British drinking culture, meanwhile has several members of the audience laughing out loud at themselves with self-recognition with its chorus line of "Staying in is the new going out."

Yet for all his self-doubt, Middleton, who spent all his ten years in Arab Strap not as a vocalist and playing guitar behind Aidan Moffatt, seems to be a much more confident front man than when Pennyblackmusic last saw him nearly a year ago, enjoying joking with the crowd about his self-professed status as Scotland's most miserable man, and also prepared to take a few risks on stage.

Rather than take the easy option of saving his best known songs for the end, Middleton throws the sing-a-long 'Fuck It, I Love You', unlikely Christmas No. 1 contender 'We're All Going to Die' and the psychobilly title track ,along with much of the rest of 'A Brighter Beat', into the middle of the set, and closes it instead with several songs from his lesser known first two albums, '5.14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine' and 'Into the Woods'.

As well as pinpointing his and our own neuroses in his lyrics and then making them alright by laughing about them, Middleton's other trick is to marry these words with thunderously upbeat pop beats. With a cracking backing band that features some of the west of Scotland's best musicians including on backing vocals and violin the Reindeer Section's Jenny Reeve, former Delgadoes drummer Paul Savage and Arab Strap's Stevie Jones on bass, Middleton can do no wrong with the crowd tonight, finishing the set in riotous applause and after two encores with still cries for more.

Malcolm Middleton has given us all the members of his audience in Edinburgh something to celebrate this Christmas and in their collective failings. This was an excellent performance from an increasingly strong performer.

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Commenting On: Liquid Room, Edinburgh, 6/12/2007 - Malcolm Middleton

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