A Stunning Introspective Solo Offering
'A Brighter Beat' manages to channel the emotion inevitably caused by Arab Strap's break up into a wondrous mix of thrashing guitars and indie angst that seldom remains static for more than a few moments.
'Death Love Depression Love Death', a stunning mid-album high point with frantic guitars and evocative lyrics,"Today's as black as the bleak Scottish sky", this tune stirs a primordial sympathy in any listener and rivals fellow Scots Idlewild's epic, "Scottish Fiction" in terms of drawing from the well of soaring emotions and frenetic rock.
Elsewhere there are cheery tunes, 'Fuck It I Love You', is a chirpy little number that wins the listener over with its simplicity. Opener, 'We're All Going To Die' has a similar stream of positivity in its fatalistic midst with a fast-paced tune punctuated by electro laser beams and soaring synths.
Jenny Reeve adds a sweet harmony to Middleton's broad Glasgwegian vocals on the catchy electro-pop tune, 'Fight Like The Night'. 'Stay Close, Sit Tight' moves from a beguiling pop tune to a touching tale with perfect key changes stirring the pleasant demeanour into something a little more troubled.
Mesmeric meandering ballad, 'Up Late At Night Again' is a stunning heartfelt love song brimming with tender feelings, "Alarm clocks press gang me back to life, the Queen of Snooze is rising", sighs Middleton over enigmatic echoes. Middleton's bright outlook always seems to be haunted by some minor instrument bringing down his uplifting mood; this is the tension that drives the album, especially evident on the dramatic closer, 'Superhero Songwriters' which begins with daunting brass licks before twisting into a creepy introspective.
This album really feels like it's going somewhere and it's ready to whisk you along on the journey, "I can feel stuff coming", Middleton opens vaguely on 'Stay Close, Sit Tight', summarising the album's progressive feel, although rather less eloquently than usual. While it has its depressive moments, like the morose but genius, 'Four Cigarettes', 'A Brighter Bear' is generally just that, a tale of sunshine and rain but one which leaves you feeling very optimistic about Malcolm Middleton's solo career.