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The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit

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Reviewed on 1st December 2008.

 
 

The Midnight Organ Fight

By Frightened Rabbit

It's been a constant source of wonder why there's been so much fuss made over the perfectly OK Glasvegas this year when another Scottish band released possibly the finest album of 2008 yet escaped the NME's and most everyone else's spotlight.

In what's been a fruitful year for great records, Frightened Rabbit's second album, 'Midnight Organ Fight' was one of the strongest releases and served as a far more redolent snapshot of what affects the thought processes of the romantic modern-day Scot.

Musically, they are a charmingly tuneful lo-fi engine room of energy. Aggressively-pound drum patterns throb underneath layers of guitar; some clanging and harsh, others spooky and gently ornate. Their strength lies in having a fine grasp of beautiful vocal lines that allow frontman Scott Hutchison to peal out his superb lyrics with an alluring impassioned earnestness while his brother and drummer, Grant, harmonises with intent over the sonic swoosh that's being whipped up.

'The Modern Leper' kicks in sparsely with a simple nagging acoustic strum that flowers into a raging, chugging stomper. Comparing himself to a leper (or 'cripple' as he says), hopelessly tortured with masochistic guilt, Hutchison suggests; 'I'll cut out all the good stuff, I'll cut off my foot to spite my leg', later laments; 'that limb that I had lost, it was the only thing holding me up' and futilely argues 'You're not ill and I'm not dead, doesn't that make us the perfect pair?' His lines are always fervent and sincere but also warm and familiar, delivered informally in a vulnerable-sounding Scottish lilt, in a similar way to Fat Cat labelmates, The Twilight Sad.

Somebody or other's no longer the subject of his affections in the pounding grunge-pop gem, 'I Feel Better'. After Hutchison reveals; 'I see you walking round with someone new', they're bluntly assured; 'this is the last song I'll write about you.'

'Good Ams Vs. Bad Arms' is a gentle twinkling waltz featuring some sweetly stylised sibling singing that resonates with greater charm over a more temperate arrangement. The curious title perhaps a reference to the toned, athletic 'good arms' of an ex's new squeeze replacing the flabby, bingo-winged embrace his 'bad arms' half-heartedly used to offer.

'Fast Blood' boasts an obtuse 'Tomorrow Never Knows' groove over which waves of stun guitar are thrashed out, supplying the exhilarating power required to hold up the superbly emotionally-wrought vocal, as you experience exactly how it feels as 'the fast blood hurricanes through me'.

Comparisons could be made with Idlewild's more ardent moments and there are folksy elements evident throughout, particularly in the singalong campfire jangle of 'Old Fashioned', a sepia-tinted pledge to get 'back to how things used to be' by embracing the simpler pleasures of turning the telly off to vibe off the buzz of the radio and 'do it like they did in '43'.

'Head Rolls Off' opens with a reasonable enough point ('Jesus is just a Spanish boy's name, so how come one man got so much fame?') and is an unashamedly melodic charmer that, with its Caledonian Counting Crows-alike feel, could've fitted snugly into most daytime radio playlists. The song includes an uplifting assertion of faith in some kind of heavenly place; 'I believe in a house in the clouds, and God's got his dead friends round. He's painted all the walls red to remind them they're all dead.'

'My Backwards Walk' is a grim, wearisome trudge brightened up immeasurably by a shining vocal performance, a stentorian Hutchison excelling in delivering his evocative, wittily defeatist poetic pay-offs. The title refers to his desire to walk away from a relationship that has run its emotional course yet still retains a more convenient physical appeal. There's been few better, more succinct lines uttered about a broken relationship you can never seem to get around to fixing than: 'been working hard on walking out but my shoes keep sticking to the ground, my clothes won't let me close the door because my trousers seem to love your floor.'

'Keep Yourself Warm' recalls, as the song climaxes, The Wedding Present's harsher 'Seamonsters'-era aural attack. It features a lazy evocation of quick-fix casual sex with the line; 'I'm drunk and you're probably on pills, if we've both got the same diseases, it's irrelevant, girl' but also a knowing air of caution after the event in; 'You won't find love in a hole, it takes more than fucking someone you don't know to keep warm.'

'Floating In The Forth' has a miserable lyrical undercurrent but is polished up into a sweetly shimmering dreamy urban folk tale. Hutchison decides; 'I think I'll save suicide for another day' but ponders the sorry metaphorical death of his love for another when asking; 'Should we kick its cunt in and watch as it dies from bleeding?' On a happier, unrelated note, that makes this the second album released this year by a Scottish band featuring both the words 'cripple' and 'cunt'. The Fratellis are the other ones, trivia fans. Way to break those taboos!

Frightened Rabbit's first album, 'Sing The Greys' was recorded in their own rehearsal space, giving it a fine lo-fidelity charm. This follow-up was recorded with Peter Katis (Interpol, Mercury Rev, National) and is, 'Pablo Honey-to-Bends'-like, a substantial step forward; sonically, musically and especially lyrically. You'd be hard pushed to find a more poetic, more earthy and more honest set of lyrics on a record this or in any subsequent year. Hutchison's gift is in achieving the most evocative of images with the simplest, most unfussy, pun-free use of language. The words he uses in his affecting break-up songs resonate because they feel real and familiar.

It's also one of those albums that impresses more with repeated listens. That nagging keyboard refrain, those sweet backing vocals, that extra sheet of guitar, the beauty in the way he sings that line - all subtle inflections you didn't realise were there before.

There's real magic at work within this album and it's a potent potion the Americans have taken to ingesting gleefully. Live, they're a very different beast, too as their indie-folk stylings are given a powerfully cathartic makeover. I also have it on good authority that this album was given a 9/10 review in NME but was downgraded to a '7' as the editor considered them not to be an NME band. Surely that's another reason to grant them your full attention.

 

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On 10th January 2010 at 20:43 Dave LMS wrote...

Got this a bit late, but it's a really good album. I've been listening to it non-stop now for a few days and I am looking forward to the new album too.

 

On 1st February 2010 at 21:54 Anonymous 7512 wrote...

absolutely fantastic band and album! Liver! Lung! FR! is also a fine offering of a live album by these gents

 

On 1st February 2010 at 22:44 Anonymous 7175 wrote...

Sing The Greys was a amazing debut as well.

 
 
 

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