This review will be a rubbish read. Save yourself the bother of reading it and get your Malcolm fix by listening to Into the Woods, which is decidedly the opposite of rubbish. If you were just wondering whether Malcolm Middleton did a good job of performing, the answer is yes. So leave me alone now.
What - you're still here? All right then, fine - maybe you enjoy when things are rubbish; you're probably a Malcolm Middleton (MM) fan, so I wouldn't be surprised given his thematic leanings. I, on the other hand, am someone who enjoys being happy most of the time, whether there's an actual reason to be or not. Usually, MM's songs make me happy. But today, I feel rubbish. And it's rubbish. I doubt MM really enjoys existing in some mild to extreme state of depression at all times, but at least he makes the most of it by writing some brilliant songs that might make other people who feel rubbish feel less rubbish whilst listening to them. Though tonight, MM's gig exposes me to the many things about which I should feel rubbish.
One of the things about which I feel rubbish is my rubbish photography. My camera is great. I am rubbish. So there aren't any photos, save these extremely rubbish ones. Too bad, isn't it.
I also feel terrible for judging the crowd as the most bedraggled group I've seen since examinations week in uni. But they seem fine with being a bit sad in looks and actions, bringing “Blue Plastic Bag's” melancholic pisstake lyric “Sing along with the sad songs” to a whole new level. The sold-out house of older indie fankids really adore Malcolm, in an over-eager and trusting way that frighteningly makes me want to hurt them just a little.
I can't wait for this to be over, not because it's bad, but because this room feels like a sauna of faint despair and heavy body odour. Malcolm in equal parts augments the unbearable oppression and cuts through the humidity of the humanity with flashes of major chords and backhanded optimism. A searing violin-driven rendition of holiday classic “We're All Going to Die” punctuates a set that flows in an ebb of MM's steadfast voice and I-II-V-I chord progressions. Flashy, cymbal-bashing percussion and spangly keyboards pull heroics, adding glitz and glamour to an otherwise scruffy overall sound.
MM has his friends with him, and while none of them look too merry, they seem to be in good gloomy company. He starts out alone with his guitar, then adds Jenny on violin/guitar/airy backing vocals, and calls on four more musicians to pep up the noise if not the facial expressions. As a highlight, a backing tenor vocalist adds a revelatory '80s emcee freestyle rap during the breakdown of “Zero.” MM seems to be having playtime with his tracks off of new album Waxing Gibbous, which further reinforces buzz that he's looking to do something different for his next contribution to the music world. It's good. I'm excited. I guess.
The one jarring moment comes from a rubbish equipment mishap. During a ballad, the keyboard stand legs give way, creating a blaring noise when the three-tiered synth set-up crashes down. While the rest of the band tend to the fallen soldier, Malcolm is left to banter and solo his way out of the awkwardness. The situation is funny, and so is Malcolm, who tells a heckler shouting a Michael Jackson joke to “Fuck off,” then announces his next song as “Thriller.” Everyone else seems happy with his impromptu and distracted soloing, and I think it's too hot to smile. Which, I admit, is a rubbish way of enjoying an endearingly vulnerable moment from a hardened legend.
There's an encore. It's decent. I leave and everything seems small, ugly, cheap. An otherwise respectable-looking man is vomiting by himself on the posh end of Regent Street. Everywhere on the train, people are feeding themselves McDonald's and KFC. More disgustingly, I don't care a jot about any of them. Some inebriated man has sat down next to me, finished his Big Mac, and started reading my writing over my shoulder. When I catch him, he says he's just checking my English. This goon suspects I might have sub-par English. He asks if it's very good, my English. Better than yours, I snarl. With the exception of this piece of work, I think, which, as promised, is rubbish. But thanks to Malcolm, I am understanding that you can't help but feel rubbish every once in a while. And still - Fuck it, I like you, Malcolm Middleton.