Review : Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
SputnikmusicWhat I like about writing is that I can lay my thoughts out in a line and put them into an order that makes sense and doesn't make me seem irrational. Those million feelings that race through my body every minute can be frozen and inspected and explained in turn. That's the idea anyway. It's interesting to see how new media essentially abandons that idea in favor of reactionary bursts of emotion that won't be remembered in an hour's time and aren't worth remembering anyway. Or worse, the expressing of emotion is relegated to the posting and re-posting of pictures that are scrolled through so fast that not even a fraction of the thousand words they supposedly tell is heard. It is sensory overload that is supposed to be “real,” complicated feelings diluted to pages and pages of sentence-long posts and pictures.
Frightened Rabbit show that there are merits to both. The majority of “My Backwards Walk” is so nurtured, almost to perfection. Such care must have been put into those lyrics. But then comes the line, “You're the shit and I'm knee-deep in it.” It is both clever and stupid as hell. It's not a compliment and yet it's not quite an insult either. It almost certainly just occurred to Scott Hutchison one day. I hated it initially. Eventually I was won over, partly because it's so wonderfully crass but mostly because of the subtle shifts in the vocal melody that make the line seem like something much deeper than it actually is. It shows that Hutchison was aware of how trite some of his lyrics may sound and painstakingly tried to keep them from being presented that way. That subtlety is something Frightened Rabbit have mastered; it runs through the whole record. “Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms” is full of millisecond-long pauses in between words and lines that are held just a little bit longer than expected. The songs sound off in some way but never enough to keep them from being perfect. When Hutchison sings, “I think I'll save suicide for another year” at the climax of “Floating In The Forth,” the music sounds like a Christmas carol. Like the rest of the album, it's predictable but not in a way that you'd expect. It's tweaked and skewed, it tips the scale away from generic and toward unique....full text
PitchforkOn the surface, Scottish trio Frightened Rabbit are like a lot of other bands. You could file them away with other musicians from their Glasgow scene, or other bassist-free groups, or other bands of literal brothers (frontman Scott and drummer Grant Hutchison are siblings). But somehow, despite the fact that their methods are well-worn, their product is one-of-a-kind, as their consistently great second album (in under a year, no less!) attests.
The key here is Scott's urgent-yet-emotive songwriting. Midnight Organ Flight is full of rousing barnburners that flicker with soul, ballads that ache with masculine vulnerability, and Frightened Rabbit's best song yet, opener "The Modern Leper". Built on insistently downstroked guitars and drums that build from a gallop to a thundering crash, this Pixies-go-acoustic track swells with self-loathing. "Is that you in front of me/ Coming back for even more of exactly the same?/ You must be a masochist/ To love a modern leper on his last leg," sings Scott, and rarely has a song with such anthemic, air-drum-worthy fills been shot through with so much personal revulsion.
Grant's muscular drumming is a highlight throughout the record-- and on stage. At a recent New York show, the band hadn't yet made it through two songs before he'd splintered three drumsticks with his powerful pounding. With the absence of another instrument to hold down the rhythm section (guitarist Billy Kennedy does occasionally fill out the low end with keyboard), he uses his percussion-- the satisfying hiss of his cymbals, the breathless insistence of his thudding kick drum, the delicious sizzle of his marching-band snare-- to saturate the empty space in the compositions. Flailing about at his kit, he keeps time wildly yet melodically, controlled amidst the chaos....full text
DustedmagazineFrightened Rabbit’s first album, Sing the Greys, received a warm reception from critics and U.S. listeners when it was reissued by FatCat last year. A selection of demo recordings that core band members (and brothers) Scott and Grant decided to turn into a full album, Sing the Greys had several virtues: it was incredibly catchy; it displayed a sense of humor; it was unforced; and (the confluence of these virtues) it was a lot of fun to listen to. Frightened Rabbit’s new album, The Midnight Organ Fight has 14 songs that were written and recorded as part of a single album. Predictably, The Midnight Organ Fight is sharper, more polished, and better in parts than Sing the Greys. There’s only one unfortunate downside. This sharper, more polished effort displays fewer of the things that made the first album so enjoyable.
Though it’s always dangerous to conflate author and narrator (particularly in song lyrics), Frightened Rabbit like to present themselves as shabby, downtrodden guys. For instance, in “The Modern Leper,” the first single from The Midnight Organ Fight, lead singer Scott puts his predicament thusly: “I am ill, but I’m not dead, and I don’t know which of those I prefer.” On “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms,” he sings to one of his exes that “I might not want you back, but I want to kill him,” before giving up and conceding at the end of the song that “I’m still in love with you and can’t admit it yet.”
This lyrical pose, however, is belied by the production work, which is anything but shabby or tossed-off. Listen to the way the slide guitar on “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” is perfectly mixed, or the way that the guitar tone at the beginning of “Fast Blood” has just the right amount of reverb and distortion, and you can imagine producer Peter Katis and the band poring over the songs in the studio. (Katis is responsible for immaculately produced bands like Interpol and The National.) The idea may be to write songs that sound ragged and spontaneous, but there’s clearly a lot of work going into each of them.
Which is emphatically not a criticism of The Midnight Organ Fight; there’s a lot of material here that stands up with any pop band recording today (particularly the four songs that open the album). It’s just unfortunate that this sharpness in Frightened Rabbit’s sound involves an inevitable narrowing of the band’s style. Part of the charm of Sing the Greys came from songs like the sprawling “Square 9,” which was not really an epic pop song but a stripped-down band doing their best impression of an epic pop song. It was exactly the sort of casual, tossed-off masterpiece that the band’s lyrics suggest they were trying to produce. Now that they’re poised to join the ranks of fellow Glaswegian pop juggernauts like Belle and Sebastian or the Pastels, the albums may be more consistent and professional, but unforced moments like that may be fewer and farther between....full text
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