Ah, Scott Hutchison, you had me at “It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.”
Well, actually, Frightened Rabbit won me over a long time ago, with their brief but beautiful debut, Sing the Greys, which came out just last year. And now the terrified critters (Scott Hutchison, his brother Grant on drums, and Billy Kennedy on guitar and keyboards) are back with The Midnight Organ Fight (best sex metaphor ever), which not only expands upon the sonic palette they built on their debut, but is also one of the best albums (so far) of 2008.
The Midnight Organ Fight pulls of a good trick – this music is not far from latter-day U2, CW teen drama-ready pop, except that Hutchison’s lyrics sabotage the radio-friendliness of most of these songs with their besotted frankness. “Backwards Walk” could be a Coldplay tune but for its outro of “you’re the shit and I’m knee-deep in it”. Okay, it couldn’t be a Coldplay song because Coldplay sucks. But you get the idea. Likewise, “Poke” could fill out one of those cloying Grey’s Anatomy montages but for the line, “Or should we kick its cunt in/ and watch as it dies from bleeding?” The relationships on The Midnight Organ Fight all die violent deaths and Hutchison’s voice staggers about the album, lurching forcefully into each melodic passage. This guy is clearly coming off an epic fucking breakup and I feel for him, I really do, but sweet zombie Jesus, it sounds so good. If you can’t empathize with the line, “I may not want you back/ but I want to kill him”, then I just can’t help you. Sorry.
There’s a little bit of levity here, just enough to balance out the sadness. “Old Old Fashioned,” is a jaunty little jig and “Head Rolls Off,” is an upbeat number about Hutchison’s lack of faith; the song opens with one of my favorite lines: “Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name.” The Onion’s AV club embedded the video in their review for this song and Frightened Rabbit’s playing this tune (“I believe/ in a house in the clouds/ God’s got his dead friends ’round/ and he’s painted all the walls red/ to remind them they’re all dead”) in a kindergarten classroom while little kids dance around joyfully. Priceless.
The album is infused with a melancholy hope as well. “Floating in the Forth” sees Hutchison ruminating on suicide after his girl walks out on him, a sentiment which would be stupid in a lot of cases but as he stands on a bridge thinking about taking the leap, he realizes he’s not that bad off. First, he’ll save suicide for another day and then another year and you get the feeling (‘take your life/ give it a shake”) that he probably won’t get around to it at all.
The Midnight Organ Fight is an impressive, honest, beautiful work about the death of relationships, the imminence of death, and the drugs and fucking we sometimes use to cope with those things. This is a tremendous record and I don’t know why you’re still reading this review instead of listening to The Midnight Organ Fight.