March 10, 2008

Review: Frightened Rabbit | The Midnight Organ Fight [MP3s]

Frightened Rabbit -- The Midnight Organ FightGlaswegian indie rock foursome Frightened Rabbit has slowly revealed more and more of itself (in approximate proportion to the almost humorous multiplication of its membership) since unceremoniously shuffling into the consciousness of the American indiescenti in 2006. While the five-year-old band's principals remain cagey about using their last name (for the record: Hutchison, Hutchison, Kennedy; a new third guitarist is named Andy Monaghan, according to Wikipedia), the gradual revelation is audibly manifested in the steady scrubbing away of noise and clamor of Frightened Rabbit's recordings. This cleansing culminates with the release of the trio's spectacular sophomore full-length, The Midnight Organ Fight. The set was recorded by Peter Katis (Interpol in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Mobius Band), and, indeed, his production renders the tracks nearly crystalline.

Not that The Midnight Organ Fight is a pop recording, although founder and fronter Scott Hutchison's tunes fully realized in the studio are stamped with new and sometimes pop-accessible tonality and dynamics -- particularly the excellent mid-tempo thumper "The Twist." We will likely continue to prefer the grittier demo and live version of certain tracks, such as the cataclysmically self-negating "The Modern Leper." Even so, the song's Reznorian lyrics communicate a black desperation -- seriously, have you heard this song live? -- that even Katis' illumination can't brighten. Simply the inclusion of "The Modern Leper" makes The Midnight Organ Fight a remarkable record, although the stark sincerity of Scott's vocals (notably in "Head Rolls Off," when he proclaims "I believe in a house in the clouds," or at the opening of and throughout the standout "My Backwards Walk") gives every Frightened Rabbit number an arresting charm. Disease, inebriation and dysfunction is not new subject matter for the musical underground, although some -- we're looking at you, Mr. Dulli -- tell the story better than others. So it is Mr. Hutchison's confessional earnestness that is perhaps his music's most singular characteristic.

While we were skeptical at first of the clean, crisp sound on this new set, The Midnight Organ Fight is a landmark recording for the band. Where Katis's production really shines is on interstitial compositions such as "Extrasupervery" (which was crafted from the fizzing backing tracks of the aforementioned "The Twist"). Sing The Greys included similar short pieces, but Katis' production transforms the new sketches into potent cinematic moments that harness the band's burgeoning interest in orchestration -- loyal readers may recall the choral flip-side to FR's holiday single "It's Christmas So We'll Stop" -- and steers it toward spine-tingling territory. Such fertile new directions may produce the most stunning Frightened Rabbit work in the future. As unlikely as it sounds, "Extrasupervery" hints at Disintegration-caliber genius. Fatcat releases The Midnight Organ Fight in North America April 15.

Frightened Rabbit -- "The Modern Leper" -- The Midnight Organ Fight
Frightened Rabbit -- "Head Rolls off" -- The Midnight Organ Fight
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1 comment:

nadav said...

Great band. We just got their video - "Heads Roll Of" on VIRV.TV - Indie Music Television.
Check it out at http://www.virv.tv