I first heard this song in Avalanche Records in Glasgow, and as soon as I heard it, I knew I wanted the CD it appeared on. Featuring the unmistakable voice of Malcolm Middleton, it's a song of hope. It's a realisation that everything's fucked, and you've lost your lover. It's a New Year's Resolution to change. It's the first sip of water since you've quit drinking. It's phoning up your ex-girlfriend and only getting her answering machine. It's sitting in silence with only a dial-tone to keep you company while you flick through old photo albums. It's knowing you have to change, and trying, but not knowing how, or to what extent. It's walking through Buchanan Galleries all alone, with nothing but your sadness to keep you company. It's hoping for the best, no matter what. The lyrics are almost too open and honest. Like watching an acquaintance burst into tears underneath the stairwell. Pretending to walk by without noticing, but then - a head on your shoulder, a tear-streaked voice, the words, "I've got no one".
There's something about this track. Maybe it's the thought of a lover keeping you awake at night - missing the imprint of their head upon your pillow, their body upon your sheets. Maybe it's when he breaks in with "I'm four cigarettes away from having to leave the house", and the knowing - the shared experiences, laid down in song. Or maybe it's the melancholic piano melody after the chorus, the sadness that pervades throughout. Maybe it's the desire to be unique, the desire to make each and every life worthwhile. Or maybe it's the slightest hint of optimism despite "failure after failure".
Malcolm Middleton & Alan Bissett
The Rebel On His Own Tonight
This song genuinely excites me. As soon as I saw that the lyrics were by Alan Bissett I was intrigued, because I've read various pages from his novels and they're filled to the brim with contemporary cultural references and urban Scottish street-speak. The fact that the song has a speaking part by the man himself only adds to the excitement. I love spoken-word passages in songs. Malcolm Middleton is responsible for the singing and the music, and his expert craftsmanship produces an ominous electronic sound-scape which underpins the song, the singing, the deprecating lyrics. This track is simply put, fantastic. As soon as it breaks into the spoken-word, with those amazing lyrics, "Pure as vodka, pure as snow / She kisses like it's a terrorist act", you realise that the track, somehow, got more note-worthy; more remarkable. It's impossible, when listening to this track, not to feel sympathy, to feel sadness, to empathise - the lyrics are concerned with the subtle every-day tragedies of real-life.
Imagine an ex-best friend who you've known since childhood, and you've seen "the classroom page [where he] scribbled all [his] rage / Syd Barrett chord changes, Tyra McKenzie's name", and you've heard every-single-one of his ridiculous ideas and ambitions for the future, and you know he spends half his time "dreaming [he] is Stephen King", and you've been there every time he's been "steaming" and "taken a drubbing from somebody's fucking boyfriend". But you moved on with your life, and he never did, so "the rebel's on his own tonight".
"Cheer Down" is one of the "Extra Songs", "Four Cigarettes" is track seven, off the special edition of Malcolm Middleton's newest album, A Brighter Beat, which is exceptional. So Scottish, and forlorn, yet so uplifted and triumphant. The remarkable thing about his music is the self-deprecating lyrics set over the top of the smile-on-your-face -as-you-spot-the-ice-cream-van music. Of course, I picked up on the more depressing songs, full of keep-the-curtains-closed misery and oh-lord-let-me-change optimism. [Buy]
"The Rebel On His Own Tonight" comes from the Ballads of the Book compilation, out today, which brings together Scottish musicians and Scottish writers, in a project supported by the Scottish Arts Council. The packaging is gorgeous, with every page of the lyric booklet having its own appropriate illustration. For this reason alone, it is worth buying.