Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
A simple way to look at everything, which allows for fewer hang-ups regarding perfection and precision, is by reminding yourself every so often that what you're doing is working through these days freehand. Even with the steadiest of hands, there's a wiggle or a wobble to everything that comes out of it. It's not really the sharpened edges that get all of the recognition anyway, it's those flurries, those squiggles, the parts where the needles jump and bob on the polygraph machine. We pay attention when those needles get rickety and spike hard because it's where the pulp is.
It's not always good pulp or tender muscle that we bite into, but it's the fascinating quagmire of things going right when they're going wrong and quiet celebrations with hints of melancholy always adding to their allure. Scotland's Frightened Rabbit bless us with a version of the hypochondriac's code, the words that are lived(?) by when things could be rosier. Most of the words that come out of lead singer Scott Hutchison's mouth take on a pessimistic view of the current circumstances, whatever they may be. They aren't morbidly pessimistic, just normally pessimistic with special recognition for lifetime dedication. Luck's having its way and progress, unsightly progress in the world on both sides of the curtains, is getting a little too out of hand for him to swallow. There's a suggestion that we just go back to those old-fashioned days, but how old-fashioned would we want to make them? Just back to when we weren't worrying about gasoline prices and we weren't worried about all of the world's kids being gigantic plumper's, back to when men and women wouldn't be caught dead in public without their dinner jackets, slacks, shiny shoes, dresses, pumps and adornments. Or back to when milk was delivered directly to doorsteps and there was thick, thick civility, generosity and chivalry? It couldn't be what he really means. It's taking it too far. He is liberal with his insinuations that he's worn out and there's no brio left to tap into.
His observations on The Midnight Organ Fight and Sing The Greys are not laced with vitriol, just consternation, which is the constructive way to go about it. He approaches the material he wants to write with a sleepy-lidded gaze into it. Even when things are abysmal, there's always a sense in the band's cool nonchalance that they'll give the matter a good-hearted shrug and smirk and then just take it to the couch or recliner with some lager and a clear conscience. If Frightened Rabbit is looking on the dark side, wanting to just bury their heads into the forgiving sand until all of the jostling clouds and storms pass over, they're far-sighted with just minor symptoms of myopia and getting caught up in the drags of those things that are right in from of them. It makes for the best table chatter - all of the screw-ups and spills that are happening of the moment - but there is a lining of cautious optimism, even if it is shrouded securely behind grey-dayed atmospherics.
Frightened Rabbit brings an ominous tension to the grounds, gravitating toward all of the whimpering reluctance to get caught expressing too much of a gleeful side. It's not in the least unattractive, and actually is quite stunning in a National and Phosphorescent sort of way - with sometimes anthem-like guitars and other times bare strummings to do the trick, where there's a lot of major renovation that needs to be done in a life to make something that would be acceptable. The protagonists that Hutchison works with in these songs just can't buy a break and it has nothing to do with funds. They are tattered and torn and yet, still able to take nourishment and they'll wake up for another breakfast following another blackened night. It's bad, but not so bad that it's going to ruin anything irreparably. The feeling is that if things reverted back to the ways things used to be, sorting them out from the way things are would be harder than hell. So they stick. The bellyaches are half laughs and the humans are humans, nothing more and nothing less, marooned here.
Frightened Rabbit Official Site