Last week we were wondering whether The Boxer Rebellion’s latest album would see them do a Snow Patrol and crack the big time, but noted it was hard to judge an album before and after greatness, because that greatness made you view it differently. Who knows?
This latest from Frightened Rabbit is different: this is going to be massive. This time next year everyone will know the name and that of Scott Hutchison, who started the band.
We’ve got some of their earlier stuff and seen them live but we always found them a bit angular/rough round the edges to really like them. This new offering has all roughness removed and it’s as good an album as you’re going to hear this year.
Frightened Rabbit are a Scottish indie band from Selkirk and were at first just Scott Hutchison (vocals, guitar, songwriting). Then his brother Grant joined and insisted on a name, that being chosen being Scott’s own childhood nickname. He has a love/hate relationship with it. (We can imagine: “Hey son, we’re gonna give you a nickname to instil confidence in you as mature adult, Frightened Rabbit”).
Musically, they’re like a classic Death Cab for Cutie song, while it warms up but before it goes totally over the top and gets very loud — atmospheric, melodic indie, lovingly served up. The Scottishness makes them sound like countrymen Glasvegas, who also had a nice line in lyrical depression.
Opener Death Dream has piano, voice and a buzzing-bee sound of strings to give it atmosphere. Get Out starts off more strongly with drums and guitar before an epic riff kicks in. I Wish I Was Sober is back to a more stripped back sound and rather lovely, though it livens up.
As can be seen by the titles mentioned, and ones like An Otherwise Disappointing Life and Die Like A Rich Boy, Scott Hutchison has issues with esteem and self-loathing but don’t for one second think the music is depressing. He wraps the barbed lyrics in happy, jolly tunes that are a pleasure to listen to.
We heard him interviewed this week and he said he’d met people who’d been singing the lyrics for a week before they realised what they meant. Die is clearly about suicide but he says he works out the issues in song and so is not like that in real life: “Don’t worry, mum!” he joked in the interview, though he earlier admitted he had had a conversation with his parents about the bleak lyrics and whether they should worry.
As we say, all rough edges knocked off, intelligent lyrics and great tunes: this is an outstanding album.