Artist: Malcolm Middleton
Label: Full Time Hobby
Due Out: August 11th
I'll start by saying this will be a bit shorter than normal. To be honest, this wasn't even my first choice for a review. Unfortunately though, a few things got in the way of my being able to write up a more suitable (to me) album and review for the readers. Still, I think this one can suffice, just in an abridged format. Things have been a bit busy lately, and there's a genuine absence of notable releases this week, so I guess this is what happens as a result.
Contrary to reports, and what the album sounds like, this is not a retirement for Malcolm Middleton. It is, however, his last solo album for awhile. Apparently he's looking to try new things. If the Scottish singer were to hang it up after this one though, I can't say he wouldn't be going out on an appropriate note. His fifth album under his own name, Waxing Gibbous portrays closure, content and a bit of restlessness to counter it as well. He's moving on, both happily and unhappily but the vibe works to his advantage. Many segments are bouncy and bright, even as his beaten down Scottish accent seems exhausted amidst the noise. For most of the album, that same voice manages to exist completely separate of the background music-- something both interesting and uncommon.
The other thing I found most interesting is the fair balance between Coldplay, Morrissey and Rocky Votolato similarities. Not sure if it's always a positive attribute per say, but it's definitely one that is prevalent on the album. There are some very big sounds here reminiscent of Chris Martin & Co., as well as enough self-depreciating moments to compare to the other two artists, respectively. As always, Middleton bounces all over the place, from folksy ballads to synth-based charges to arena rock soaring jams. Still, it keeps you interested and surprised, though not jarringly so.
As good as Waxing Gibbous can seem at times, to me, it pales in comparison to his best work, 2005's Into the Woods. I suppose the final verdict on that will be out once the album is officially released, but I almost feel like there's some sincerity and personality lost in the translation here. Not to say it's an disingenuous work (not at all), but I suppose I'm more accustomed to his more intimate approaches to past albums. This one, though a decent effort, seems to border on the type of radio rock that I tend to avoid. Overall, it seems like he's closing the door because he has to, not necessarily because it's the natural thing to do. However, this could just be my perception of the ordeal, so please, feel free to judge for yourself.
Overall, there was a good amount to like, as well as a good amount to dislike, about Waxing Gibbous. While sounding in theory like a Malcolm Middleton effort, it does seem to lack on the aforementioned touches that would truly take it from passable to excellent. Perhaps a break into other forms of the art will allow him to gain a clearer head and approach his solo work again when he's ready. I'd recommend it for very devoted fans, but for first timers, you may not be as apt to run out and get it. Similarities include everything I mentioned earlier-- Coldplay, Morrissey and Rocky Votolato.
Sample Track: "Ballad of Fuck All"