23 April 2012

Human Don't Be Angry - Human Don't Be Angry: Track by track

Regular visitors of the blog should know all too well that I have tended to avoid writing reviews, firstly because I don't think I am all that great at them and secondly because I'm a bit lazy. It's for that reason that I like these Track By Track features, as I get tell you all about an album that I have been really enjoying, whilst leaving the musicians to do all of the hard work (I'm not as daft as I look!).
Which in a round about way brings me to the latest release from the Chemikal Underground stable, Malcolm Middleton's new pseudonym, Human Don't Be Angry. Taking a step away from his previous self deprecating
past, Malcolm's new venture sees him surprisingly veering towards almost sounding upbeat. With song titles such as 'Getting Better (At Feeling Like Shit)' and 'Jaded', Malcolm jokingly plays homage to his perceived miserableness. There are songs on the album that sound like they could be from the coolest 80's film that never was, he recently described HDBA as being 'a facade, a front so I can have fun again musically'. In allowing himself the freedom to go off and explore new ideas, he's come up with one of the finest albums that you are likely to hear all year. Anyway, that's enough of my inane ramblings, I'll pass you over to Malcky to tell you a bit more about the album...

The Missing Plutonium

Probably my favourite song, it started out (like most here) as just two guitar lines, but the drums, percussion and casios give it a really light and fresh feel. It reminds me of the old arcade game Outrun. There was a leisure centre near my High School so a lot of wasted time was spent there, and I guess I soaked up all the noise and lights. I like making instrumental music where you don’t have to worry about leaving room for a voice. You can spend hours making something and going into detail, and then when you sing over the top of it all the tiny details disappear. The title comes from the bit in Back To The Future where the Iranian terrorists are racing around a car park in a camper van trying to find the said “missing plutonium”. This song is also the first single from the album, released on the 2nd April.

H.D.B.A. Theme

This was always going to be a theme-song of some kind, the chorus hook is crying out for it. Another simple song that’s been bolstered by layers, not much else to it. The robot vocals were a last minute addition that seemed to give it a sense of identity. All the electronic drums were done by Paul Savage playing drum machines with his fingers. I think I spent a lot of time in the studio shouting “make the snare more 80’s!” or something daft like that. “Mensch argere Dich nicht” is the German name for the Frustration boardgame, which roughly translates as Human Don’t Be Angry.

First Person Singular, Present Tense

Drums again by Paul. We always have this weird thing going on where we have different opinions about the timing of a song, or how long a bar is or where the phrase starts. We’ve learnt over the years it’s better not to discuss it too much otherwise it breaks. This is a good example of that. I’d been doing this song live for about a year and it was originally half the length, but it needed to be extended and made more confusing vocally because of the subject matter, which is a bit of a head-fuck when you start getting into it. I’m not sure if this will make sense to people or whither they’ll just think it’s repetitive, random nonsense. So as a thankyou for listening to the first half you get more 80’s drums at the end and a blazing guitar solo! The title comes from the Douglas Harding book “On Having No Head”.

After The Pleasuredome

Yes, obviously a reference to one of my favourite albums of all time by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Just a nice wee “mood” piece, again not much too it. I often wondered what "the lads" got up to after "relaxing" in "the Pleasuredome", so I guess this is my interpretation of that. 

Monologue: River

This was the first HDBA song I wrote. Back in the summer of 2010 Johnny from Fence Records asked me to play their Away Game festival on the Isle Of Eigg. I said only if I can do it under a different name, he said yes, so I went away and thought up a name and wrote some songs and that’s how this whole thing came about. It gave me a good creative burst for a few weeks and much of the album was written then for a small gig on an island. Most of the songs were instrumental but this one and First Person seemed to have space for words. Part of me wishes I’d left the album entirely instrumental as my words tend to detract from the lightness of the overall feel, but maybe it was a good thing, I don’t know. It’s nice to have some personality on the record, even if it is too similar to my previous output lyrically. Although the words here are a bit more random I suppose. I haven’t rowed down any river recently…. The “ohs” at the end are blatantly ripping off Iron Maiden, and the main guitar hook is a wee bit of an homage to Jackson C. Frank. I was initially worried about Aidan’s drums on the end section because it reminded me of the tribal dance scene from The Matrix part 2. I believe my final say on the matter was “ah, fuck it”.


A good example of a slow, tender piece of guitar music ripped apart with indifference by Paul Savage’s latent urban beat tendencies. It makes perfect sense though. Aidan Moffat did the live drums here too. And I am very Jaded, so this song is autobiographical.


What a year! The summer was hot, we had Live Aid, great music, I was heavily in love with Madonna and about to start High School, where my childhood would be destroyed and Reality would make its first unwanted appearance on the stage that is "my life". Eh, what? Anyway. I love this song. Arab Strap v’s The Bee Gees.


Aww… a song about proposing to my wife while on holiday in Rhodes. Yuck. Enrique Iglesias meets Mogwai via Manchester. I’m not sure what that means.

Getting Better (At Feeling Like Shit)

Well I had to ruin it didn’t I? There goes my positive new direction and trying not to have the word “shit” anywhere near my music. Stewart at Chemikal Underground swears that if he’d seen the artwork before it was completed he would’ve forced me to change the song title to just “Getting Better”, and thereby avoid any lazy tags being associated with the album. Ach well. 

  "H.D.B.A. Theme" by Human Don't Be Angry by Chemikal Underground

Human Don't Be Angry is out now on Chemikal Underground Records, on download and CD. Also, if you're quick off the mark you might till be able to pick up a copy of the album on vinyl from your local record store, as it was released on Saturday as part of the Record Store Day celebrations.

You can catch Malcolm playing live on Saturday the 16th of June at King Tut's in Glasgow with support from Martin John Henry.

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