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Frightened Rabbit - no need to be scared at all
on 29 December 2009
This is a review about debts of honour and all that. Midnight Organ Fight has been an album that has taken residency in this reviewers head and heart with a scary level of staying power. It's been "out" since April 2008 and no week that has passed in that time when it has pushed more recent releases into a poor second place. It was one of those albums which involved a titanic struggle at first with what appeared an album comprised of a couple of standout tracks and little else but an overwrought singer. Mea Culpa therefore since persistence has paid off and the rewards are rich. Frightened Rabbit are from Selkirk and sing in broad Caledonian accents. They consist of brothers Scott Hutchison (vocals, guitar), Grant Hutchison (drums, vocals), Billy Kennedy (guitar, keyboards, bass), Andy Monaghan (keyboards, guitar, bass) and Gordon Skene (various instruments).
Let us pause, since you are thinking immediately that this is the Proclaimers mark 2 aren't you? Actually the band owes more debts to the school of classic indie pop. Influences could be fellow countrymen James Yorkston, Kenny Anderson, Biffy Clyro and even some of the best bits of Snow Patrol, but more importantly are the traces which hark back to the Byrds, the Band, REM, Counting Crows and Elliot Smith. TMOF is the bands second album and finds them producing classic songs. They are honest, full of passion, brilliantly sung and will eventually soundtrack your life. FR are starting to take off in the States and building a committed UK following. Their new album "The Winter of Mixed Drinks" is due for release in March 2010 and should be a belter.
For now however check out the 14 great songs on this album and in particular the stunning opener the "Modern Leper" a love song that starts slowly but builds to an explosive finale where Hutchinson implores "you must be a masochist?/ To love a modern leper on his last leg." Try not to sing along or not be touched by the brilliant powerful vocal. Hutchison lyrics are about the most confessional I have heard this side of a Joni Mitchell album. Next up is the brassy "I feel better" which has the energy of a Boeing 747 taking off the runway and should have been a hit. My absolute favourites however are the crushing hopelessness of one night stands detailed in "Keep yourself warm" where Hutchinson's inebriated character exclaims "I'm drunk/ I'm drunk/ And you're probably on pills/ If we've both got the same diseases/ It's irrelevant girl" . This is the band setting out their stall and adding that extra dimension that class bands seep through their pores. "The Twist" is truly excellent as is "Poke" but "My Backwards Walk" is the song that does it for me every time. Again a slow builder this is a one of the GREAT break-up songs it's painfully honest and simply perfect. Who cannot love the verse "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". All in all one of the greatest British albums of the last decade and a neglected classic for a Scottish band that will hopefully have a great new year. Happy Hogmanay.