Frightened Rabbit started in 2003 as a one-man band with Scott Hutchison in Glasgow, Scotland. By 2006 the band included three members, one of which was Scott’s brother Grant, having joined in 2004, and then followed by the addition of Billy Kennedy in 2006. Today they are comprised of five members including Andy Monaghan and Gordon Skene. They’re currently signed with FatCat Records for which they’ve released three LPs: Sing the Greys (2006), The Midnight Organ Fight (2008), and The Winter of Mixed Drinks (March 2010). Fortunately, the Internet is laden with information about the band, including video interviews with Scott, acoustic performances and live shows captured for those FLABmag readers too lazy to purchase their music or simply, just plain thieves.
I was introduced to Frightened Rabbit while visiting friends in Charlotte, NC. We sat in their garage reminiscing about our old lives in Utica, NY, drinking PBR, and listening to music on the radio. Normally, I don’t listen to the radio because Syracuse, NY is ranked 80 in the radio market and the radio truly doesn’t cater to my tastes as eclectic as they are, I wouldn’t want to hear Tom Waits played alongside Miley Cyrus. God, that thought just made my skin crawl. In my slowly inebriated state I remember hearing a song come on that caught my ear. I waited to hear the DJ announce the band and when they did I made a mental note to look into this Frightened Rabbit band. When I got back to NY, I found their music and was instantly converted, a bit angry I hadn’t found them earlier. The NBC television show, Chuck, utilized two Frightened Rabbit songs this season, one from The Modern Organ Fight and the other a single, Swim Until You Can’t Reach Land (now on The Winter of Mixed Drinks). Backwards Walk, off of The Modern Organ Fight, went completely uncensored as it played the chorus, “you’re the shit and I’m knee deep in it.” As a Chuck fan I watch religiously, so when I heard Frightened Rabbit being played, I became a zealot. The NBC censors must be deaf, or they had confused Scott’s accent and never heard the word, “shit.” So with that little back story out of the way, now I can get down to the blood and guts of Frightened Rabbit.
Frightened Rabbit has evolved wonderfully over their three full-length albums. They’ve become more lyrically creative and musically strong. I’m going to address three specific songs to demonstrate this evolution: Music Now (Sing the Greys); My Backwards Walk (The Midnight Organ Fight); and Things (The Winter of Mixed Drinks). I have chosen these songs, not because they’re any better than other Frightened Rabbit songs, but because of my own predilections.
Music Now is an anthem that addresses the music industry’s shallow and superficial singer/songwriter/performers whose lyrics are often vapid: “So if this song falls on deaf ears, I’ll lip sync it so you can hear” and “Make your music/Make it so loud, so trite/Make your music/Make your music that some cunt might like” are just a few lines from the song that point to the direction the song leans. Scott’s voice is inviting by its self, layer that with background vocals, clean and distinguishable drumbeats, simple yet rhythmic guitar riffs and the experimentation with electronic/digital effects (all highlighted in the short musical arrangements of The First Incident, The Second Incident and The Final Incident from this album), and you’ve got yourself a successful formula for a freshman introduction of Frightened Rabbit.
My Backwards Walk is a gorgeous arrangement that examines the songwriter’s personal issues with a relationship that needs to end, “I’m working hard on walking out/shoes keep sticking to the ground/my clothes won’t let me close the door/these trousers seem to love your floor.” The meat of The Midnight Organ Fight disc appears to be an angst filled-existential exploration for the songwriter, and one that is accompanied by a variety of musical structures ranging from pop to a postmodern western, as heard in the song, Poke. It is with their sophomore release that we are treated to a more polished recording where Scott’s voice takes the forefront for Frightened Rabbit. The Midnight Organ Fight displays clever storytelling through allegorical lyrics. It is this album, and the wonderful lyrics in track The Modern Leper, that caught my attention back in Charlotte, NC. “Jesus, is just, a Spanish boy’s name” from Heads Roll Off is another wonderful example of their lyrical ability and one of my favorite opening lines from their work.
The last song, Things, the first off their latest album, also examines the existential self and the need to pare down one’s possessions to become whole again, literally; but figuratively it deals with dwelling in the past and accepting it so one can live in the present without the past weighing you down: “The useless objects, they gathered a storm of shit/A dim and silent shed-full of your life’s supplies/When all you need’s a coffin and your Sunday best/To smarten up the end.” It is within this album, that we realize they have taken a step back to question where their place is in the world. It’s mature and self-reflective.
Frightened Rabbit’s albums are exquisitely existential. They’ve evolved greatly providing us with introspection into the simple truths in life: sometimes we just simply stray off course and that suffering is something we all must endure to better appreciate our lives. I highly recommend Frightened Rabbit to anyone with an interest in music that doesn’t adhere to any particular genre per se. I would fight anyone to the death, that would disagree to my claim that they just might be the greatest band in the world, but I am also enthralled with The Twilight Sad, a Scottish contemporary of Frightened Rabbit, and possibly my next music review. Frightened Rabbit is touring this summer so check their Myspace page for dates.0