October 16, 2008

Review: Frightened Rabbit | Liver! Lung! FR! [MP3s]

Frightened Rabbit -- Liver Lung FR"Good afternoon shoppers, and music fans, passers-by... We're Frightened Rabbit from Glasgow."

This is how band fronter Scott Hutchison opened last year's desperate, fire-and-brimstone-filled live release EMusic Sessions: Live At Urban Outfitters -- SXSW 2007. That short collection captured Frightened Rabbit performing when it was still a trio, but the differences between it and the largely acoustic Liver! Lung! FR!, to be released by Fat Cat next week, are more pronounced than the simple expansion in personnel. The band's The Midnight Organ Fight will likely begin appearing on blogger's year-end lists of favorite records any day now [we reviewed it here], but the new live collection may actually say more about the artistic development of the quartet and where it is in its career.

Studio albums -- at least the good ones -- beckon for scrutiny and decoding, but live records serve as even more conspicuous markers in the life of a band: "this is what we sounded like this night." Liver! Lung! FR! was recorded July 30 of this year at Glasgow's Captain's Rest in front of a hometown audience, and during the performance the quartet was joined by friends including labelmates The Twilight Sad's James Graham and fellow Glaswegian scene-maker Ross Clark. It is a warm, well-arranged and gentle performance among friends, a far cry from the gritty set the band delivered -- along with some hysterically bawdy banter -- the prior year in Texas amid the stream of faux-hipster commerce.

The contrast between the two live collections is perhaps no more apparent than when considering the versions of "The Modern Leper" performed during each set. On Liver! Lung! FR! the pounding arrangement and nihilistic lyrics are toned down and adorned with chimes, vocal harmonies, a keyboard part and additional guitar work. Mr. Hutchison practically coos the words. The proceedings do not begin to approach the levels of chaos and unhinged-ness of the EMusic version. The latter rendition is driven by Hutchison's gritty rhythm guitar and Billy Kennedy's piercing six-stringed accents, and then over-driven by Grant Hutchison's weapons-grade drumming. And while the obvious stylistic refinements and softer tone set the very nice new record apart from its live predecessor, the more nuanced sounds of Liver! Lung! FR! and The Midnight Organ Fight likely have helped pave the way for perhaps the most curious recent development in the band's career. Frightened Rabbit has been visiting us in our living room via the soundtracks of nearly every television program Mrs. Clicky Clicky watches (we just noticed our favorite track "The Twist" in a recent episode of "Chuck").

All that career progress hasn't just fallen in Frightened Rabbits' collective furry lap; instead, the band, which was just in Cambridge in early July, has been touring relentlessly. It returns yet again Sunday when it performs at The Middle East Rock Club. And a return engagement to the Boston market is already on the books . According to Bradley's Almanac -- and now, the venue's web site -- Frightened Rabbit will return to Boston's Great Scott in January. This probably says as much about the band's relentless courtship of the United States as it does us, but currently we see Frightened Rabbit more times in a year than we see our own dear mother. Frightened Rabbit began several more weeks of U.S. dates last night in Ohio, and we've posted the rest of the tour dates at the bottom of this item. Directly below we're posting an MP3 from each of the band's live records to underscore the contrast we've been talking about.

Frightened Rabbit -- "Old, Old Fashioned" -- Liver! Lung! FR!
Frightened Rabbit -- "Square 9" -- EMusic Sessions, Live At Urban Outfitters -- SXSW 2007
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[buy Frightened Rabbit music from Newbury Comics here, EMusic here]

Frightened Rabbit: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

10/15 -- Music Saves -- Cleveland,OH
10/17 -- First Unitarian Church -- Philadelphia, PA
10/18 -- Music Hall Of Williamsburg -- Brooklyn, NY
10/19 -- Middle East -- Cambridge, MA
10/21 -- Lees Palace -- Toronto, ON
10/20 -- Petit Campus -- Montreal, QC
10/22 -- Skully's Music Diner -- Columbus, OH
10/23 -- Metro, Chicago -- IL
10/24 -- High Noon Saloon -- Madison, WI
10/25 -- 7th Street Entry -- Minneapolis, MN
10/28 -- Chop Suey -- Seattle, WA
10/29 -- Media Club -- Vancouver, BC
10/30 -- Holocene -- Portland, OR
11/01 -- Bottom Of The Hill -- San Francisco, CA
11/02 -- Bottom Of The Hill -- San Francisco, CA
11/03 -- Echoplex -- Los Angeles, CA
11/05 -- U31 -- San Diego, CA
11/06 -- Rhythm Room -- Phoenix, AZ
11/08 -- Haileys -- Denton, TX
11/09 -- Fun Fun Fun Fest -- Austin, TX

Selected Prior Frightened Rabbit coverage:
FR Live At TT The Bear's, July 2008
FR Live at the Middle East, March 2008
Review: Frightened Rabbit | The Midnight Organ Fight
FR Live at Great Scott, November 2007

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