Malcolm Middleton and David Shrigley, Music and Words, album review: Delighting in ludicrous rudeness

Middleton locates the appropriate settings for Shrigley’s perverse poems with charging techno pulses animating the hysterical protests of a teenager

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The Independent Culture

Before it became a movie-parody brand, National Lampoon magazine’s main spin-off was comedy albums like the scabrous That’s Not Funny, That’s Sick! (which of course managed to be both sick and funny).

That claim serves equally well for this collaboration between Arab Strap musician Malcolm Middleton and Turner Prize-nominated cartoonist David Shrigley, who supplies the words to these dozen depraved sprechstimme skit-songs, which are performed by voice actors – notably Gavin Mitchell – over Middleton’s guitar and electropop backings.

The key to the routines’ success is the disjunction between content and character, never more so than on the opening “A Toast”, a draught of seasonal cynicism that opens with “Greetings!” and then summarily dumps a tirade of expletive-laced invective over the listener, delivered in the pompous tones of a Radio 4 announcer. It’s unfailingly, jaw-droppingly hilarious, the perfect antidote to saccharine sentiment. As too is “Story Time”, where Middleton’s pretty finger-style guitar provides the delicate backdrop to a silly scatological fable, narrated in sweetest Playschool tones, which concludes with all the animals dying of plague.

Through it all, Middleton somehow locates the appropriate settings for Shrigley’s perverse poems (or is it the other way round?) with charging techno pulses animating the hysterical protests of a teenager appalled at the vandal antics of a “Houseguest”, and chuntering stomp-beats illustrating the grotesque primitivism of a homicidal “Caveman”. Shrigley himself introduces “Sunday Morning”, perhaps the most absurdly infantile piece here, in which men are rhythmically encouraged to “bong your dong upon a gong”. Like the rest of the album, it’s unlikely to receive radio airplay; but like the Derek and Clive albums with which it shares a delight in ludicrous rudeness, notoriety may acquire it the audience it deserves.

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