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Extrasupervery

April 15, 2009

To the Scala to see Frightened Rabbit. Last time we caught this mob of checked-shirt Selkirkians, it was in Seattle of all places, and the Monkey and I were still in complete love with their sophomore record The Midnight Organ Fight.

It’s a expansive, excitable record which twines together two prominent Scottish-alternative elements: the miserable yet strangely boastful lyrical content of Arab Strap with the  big guitar sound of (ulp) Snow Patrol. The occasional lyrical solecisms — notably the pubescent insistence in several songs  on declaring that they have slept with women, they really have — are more than made up for by genuinely affecting tracks like delightful acoustic waltz ‘Old Old Fashioned’, ‘I Feel Better’ — a last salvo against an ex-lover — and ‘Head Rolls Off’, which has an entirely charming video and the lovely, contemplative refrain, ‘While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth’. In fact, pleasingly, it’s difficult to choose a favourite song from a record that is really crammed full of exceptionally good tunes.

In Seattle FR were supporting the Spinto Band (whom we didn’t have time to stay and see) and were touchingly excited by the thrilled reaction of the crowd in the tiny sweaty club. Energised, they played everything faster and more energetically than even on record, the songs propelled by their terrific drummer. Last night, though, everything was a little more subdued (such are gigs in London at times), albeit at a sold-out Scala which represented their biggest crowd thus far.  In the six months since the Seattle gig, singer Scott Hutchison has developed a fondness for elaborating his vocal lines in a way that recalls a checked-shirt-wearing Scottish male Mariah Carey. This is troubling, and takes away more than it gives to the otherwise tight FR performance. The set drew mainly on Midnight Organ Fight, with two ‘bonus’ songs from Sing the Greys, an album the band now seems inclined to disown (it’s true that the leap forward between the two albums was considerable). Awaiting the encore, it struck me that the two songs they were likely to play were the one called ‘Poke’ and the one about ‘getting your hole’, which sort of sums up the problematic lyrics. (The performance of the former, an acoustic and microphone-free effort by Scott, was a major misstep, marred further by the crowd’s joining in on the already mildly toe-curling wordless coos between verses.)

They mentioned beginning work on a third album: I’m intrigued to see whether they do manage to shed some of the juvenile swagger of their less impressive songs, and concentrate on the sweet strange and more strongly felt songs that were the highlights of last night’s show. You can visit Frightened Rabbit’s Myspace page here.

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