PARENTS will identify with Buzz Lightyear Helmet, an eight-minute epic in which Malcolm Middleton wonders “how the f*** am I going to make a Buzz Lightyear Helmet/out of a cardboard box and a roll of tape?”.

One of the many stand-out tracks on Middleton’s new album Bananas, it features a limber, almost jazz-like rhythm section and several changes of tone. It even begins with a whip-smart drum solo from sticksman David Jeans.

“You’re doing your best not to say prog,” Middleton says from his home in Anstruther, Fife, having moved east from Falkirk in 2012.

The former Arab Strap man is reassured by The National that prog isn’t necessarily something to be ashamed of. Middleton goes on: “My son was going to nursery and said, ‘OK daddy, you’d better have the helmet done before I get back’.

“I had actually built a really cool upper body with Buzz Lightyear wings. But then I got a bit stuck.

So there’s the joke element there and the more serious aspect of the constant parental worries about not doing the right thing by your children.”

The song also features the sing-a-long couplet “everything is going to be all right/but today I’m feeling shite”, a typically honest, straightforward lyric from a man never afraid to examine how the demons of low mood can affect a person’s every thought.

See also driving opener Gut Feeling with its “loads and loads of w***ers inside my head” and the buoyant, wry Love Is A Momentary Lapse In Self-Loathing with its chorus of “f*** off with your happiness” – an emotion familiar to anyone who has scrolled through images of seemingly perfect lives on social media while down in the dumps.

These three tracks were written during an intense couple of days when Middleton was “feeling a certain way and just writing lots of words down”. Having honed those lyrics into guitar-based songs, by January this year Middleton had enough songs to make his first album since 2016’s Summer Of ‘13.

The National:

Whereas that record, like his Human Don’t Be Angry albums, largely trades vocals and traditional instruments for electronic experimentation, Bananas is a return to songwriting based around guitar, bass and drums – something he hasn’t done in almost a decade.

The initial plan was to record a stripped-back acoustic album with Jeans, double bassist Stevie Jones and pianist Graeme Smillie – the trio who backed Middleton on his 2017 Christmas show at Glasgow’s Platform.

SUBSEQUENTLY working with Chem19 producer Paul Savage and adding the efforts of Kenny Anderson, (aka King Creosote), Jenny Reeve (BDY_PRTS) and Dan Wilson (aka Withered Hand), the rich instrumentation here complements Middleton’s best songs since 2009 album Waxing Gibbous.

“The electronic stuff had always come naturally, I don’t think I did a switch and turned into Erasure or something,” he says. “When I moved to Fife, I was quite far away from a recording studio and recorded alone at home where everything was at hand.”

Bananas was a very different experience, with the band spending a few days at Chem19 playing the songs live. “Things came together really well,” says Middleton. “It was more organic, and I realised I didn’t have to do anything too electronic.”

The album is out on heavyweight vinyl on Triassic Tusk Records, the label run by Stephen Marshall.

“He lives minutes along the road and I like the way he’s done stuff in the past,” Middleton says. “He always does high-quality vinyl stuff that looks great. It’s good to be proud of your unique crafty thing that you’ve made yourself instead of throwing stuff out digitally all the time.”

Middleton is responsible for the artwork of Bananas, a new creative avenue for the 44-year-old. Two of the yellow fruits hang against a white background, an image not unlike a certain classic album from 1967 by The Velvet Underground.

“I go to Ryman with the intention of buying a few things for my son and pick up stuff for me too,” Middleton says. “As you get older, it’s hard to find new things that you enjoy, but I’m finding I do really like sitting down and sketching something.

“When I was younger I’d always get hung up on it not being perfect. But I’ve let go of that a wee bit and just feel the enjoyment. It was just kicking about and I liked it. It looks like someone else’s album a bit but I made it and I’m happy with it.”

Nov 27, The Caves, Edinburgh, 7pm, £15.

Nov 28, St Luke’s, Glasgow, 7pm, £15.

Nov 29, The Tunnels, Aberdeen, 7pm, £14. Tickets from

Bananas is out now via Triassic Tusk