The Burst Noel Christmas Party
He may not be bumping the Queen’s speech from the schedules any time soon but Malcolm Middleton’s festive hoedown is a stormer, reckons Malcolm Jack
Like microwaveable turkey dinners, borderline alcoholism and falling out with your siblings, Malcolm Middleton is in danger of becoming something of an unhappy seasonal institution.
The ex-Arab Strap guitarist’s bid for a Christmas number one last December with ‘We’re All Going To Die’ ended only in a Christmas number 31, despite heavy championing from Radio 1’s Colin Murray. But his campaign still captured many imaginations along the way, as a valiant attempt by a rank outsider (Middleton’s odds started out at 1000/1) to offer an honest alternative to the usual mix of novelty trash and X Factor cash-ins that clog the charts in December.
A year on, Middleton’s hosting a Christmas party, Burst Noel, at Fairfield Working Men’s Club in Govan, headlined by himself plus full band, with support from De Rosa, Strike the Colours, The Phantom Band and a DJ set by Aidan Moffat (there willll also be an ominously and vaguely titled ‘Evil Santa’s Grotto’). Middleton’s getting all seasonal on us again seems surprising, considering his less than cheery attitudes to the festive period after last year’s experience. ‘I wouldn’t like to think of myself as a Christmas institution.’ he grumbles, deadpan, ‘Last year was just a laugh that got out of hand. After that fiasco, I came to … detest it a little bit. It’s fun to look back on, but I came out of it relatively scathed.’
Burst Noel was actually scheduled simply because Middleton hasn’t played many Glasgow dates this year. ‘So I thought I’d do something different and get a load of bands I want to see myself on the same night,’ he explains. ‘I wanted to make it an office party type vibe, rather than just getting a normal venue. It’s like Phoenix Nights in there. It’s quite 60s in décor and stuff, and it’s cheap drink and it’ll be different to going to some dark, soulless club where you get kicked out straight after. The idea is to make it a fun evening not just about one band but the whole affair.’
For a while around the turn of last year, Middleton seemed on the verge of an unlikely mainstream breakthrough with all the exposure the Christmas number one hoodoo gifted him. ‘It wasn’t really exposure though,’ he says, ‘it was more like shining the headlights on a stunned rabbit or something.’
He remains prolific however: Middleton has knocked out four solo albums in six years (most recently March’s acoustic record Sleight of Heart), and work is already under way on album five, even though, he admits, ‘musical fatigue’, ‘despondency’ and ‘cynicism’ are all setting in. ‘It’ll probably come out in the spring. Then it’ll be back into the usual cycle of touring. I’d like to try something different from the same routine I’ve had for the past 15 years, but I’m not sure what that should be.’
Ah, cheer up now, ‘tis the season to be jolly. What was his all time favourite Christmas present?
‘It was an inflatable Spiderman punch bag I got when I was wee. I ran into the room and punched it once and it hit off the edge of a unit and burst.’
Jings, that explains a lot. Need we ask what Middleton’s hoping Santa will bring him this year?
‘Yeah, an inflatable Spiderman punch bag.’
The Burst Noel Christmas Party, Fairfield Working Men’s’ Club, Govan, Fri 19 Dec.