FR (image by daddsy)
The below review is now up at LOBF. I feel like I didn't quite do We Were Promised Jetpacks but no real matter, their time will come.
There was a shard-sharp moment during this gig when everything that Frightened Rabbit stand for was frozen into a blinkless instant of time. The band had left the stage after a crazed hour of redrawing the sainted contours of The Midnight Organ Fight and in that low mumbling hum before the encore Scott Hutchinson had evidently snuck back out with an acoustic guitar. I heard him before I saw him - the first strains of ‘Poke’ ‘poke at my iris, why can’t I cry about this’ - and sought out the source of the sound. Once it became apparent that he was at the lip of the stage, alone and washed in blue light, a total silence fell across the room - it bred, the way noise does sometimes, quickly enveloping everyone. I’ve seen reverence at gigs before but this was something else, a giving over, an open gesture of respect for the song and for Hutchinson’s lyrics. Whatever the reason for this - and it might just be something as simple as an honest band writing superbly well about the universal theme of feeling like shit, mostly - Frightened Rabbit have dug their way into people’s hearts. It’s an immense thing to behold.
There had been an odd humid haze about London all day, a softened focus. St. Pancras Station, always looming, looked awry, tilted at an awkward angle - it dragged the eye upwards; the rest of Kings Cross by contrast, always a haunt of street-babblers and wall-eyed nasties was seething, crouched. In the heat it was like a hair-clogged plughole. It was almost a relief to get into the gothic splendour of The Scala…
We Were Promised Jetpacks looked wired up there, tense. And so young. I assume this was the biggest place they’d played up until now. I suspect it won’t be for long. They sounded huge, starting with ‘Keeping Warm’ - the eight-minute epic from their soon-to-be-released debut album. They followed it with their new single, ‘Quiet Little Voices’ which is a great shovel of a song with Adam Thompson roaring out the chorus with real passion. It was a common theme, and you get the sense that this band really means it. There’s a point during ‘Thunder and Lightning’ where Thompson backs off from the mic and bellows ‘your body was black and blue’ and he’s shaking with the delivery of it and looks like he might buckle under the weight of the thing. The effect on the crowd is palpable and by the end of their set they get a dirty great roar of approval.
By the time Frightened Rabbit came on the Scala had filled to bursting and the heat had nearly doubled. You could feel it rising from the concrete floors. The band started with ‘I Feel Better’ from The Midnight Organ Fight and to be honest the sound wasn’t quite there. But the initial moments were all about the response, and at the end of ‘Fast Blood’ which again sounded a little thin, you could see from the band’s reaction that this was a special moment, the end of a special era. Hutchinson announced that this was the biggest crowd that had ever come out to see them and that, as it was almost exactly a year since the release of …Organ Fight, they were celebrating.
They proceeded to play pretty much the entire record, most of which was at an odd sort of half-tempo, with Scott and his bearish brother seeming to live every minute of every track. Which I guess is a kind of perfect representation of what Frightened Rabbit are - a ramshackle, dishevelled, waywardly talented band making raw, honest music into which people seem to be able insert themselves wholly, carelessly. And Scott Hutchinson is the personification of this: a shambling figure, yet a man who seems to inspire a rare kind of warmth. And when ‘The Modern Leper’ had come and gone, and ‘Floating in the Forth’ - to date, the single most uplifting suicide song I can think of - had filled the air with its pulsing warmth there was such a sense of camaraderie in the air that the band could seriously have done anything and it wouldn’t have mattered. What they did do was to play two tracks from Sings The Greys (’The Greys’ and ‘Square 9′) and proceeded to sound the best they had done all night and became, for a time, a fucking huge rock band.
Then came the time of ‘Poke’ and everything reached a perfect sense of peace. We were thanked again for coming out, and for supporting the band through everything. We were even thanked for being nicer than a London crowd ever should be. We know that Hutchinson has been off writing the new record at a sea-side house in Fife, and we can probably infer that the collective exorcism of The Midnight Organ Fight is now complete. It’s time to move on and now I guess we wait for what comes next… They finish, inevitably, with ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ and again they sound immense - especially Grant Hutchinson, belting at his kit like a raging animal. It’s been a triumphant evening and it’s impossible not to feel happy for the band. The roar that comes as they leave the stage for the final time mingles with all that trapped heat and is carried out through the doors into the waiting fists of the Pentonville Road.
Mountain*7 - for the person with nothing better to do
Entries tagged as frightened rabbit
Album: The Bee's Made Honey in the Lion's Skull
Label: Southern Lord
This album has stayed with me; and on these long mornings with the earth shining with cold blue light it makes even more sense.
Here's what I thought back in May:
There is something in the deliberate sloth of Earth that fits the new coming of summer; and this new album, whilst at times following the deep-furrowed plough lines of past albums, has something brighter about it, at times clean and new. Gone are the massive buzzing one chord drones that took the fibrous walls of Tony Iommi's riffs to some logical if bastardised extreme, to be replaced by something more structured and architectural. At times I find myself looking into the rafters of these tracks looking for crows, looking for hideaways...
'Miami Morning Coming Down' is as shimmering a track as Earth have ever produced, and one of the sweetest, with Dylan Carlson's guitar tolling like a huge bell matched and layered by a gentle piano.
Accompanying Track: Earth - Miami Morning Coming Down
Artist: Marconi Union
Album: A Lost Connection
Label: MU Transmissions
For a band who are obsessed with communication, or the lack of, Marconi Union are an elusive prospect. They have been around for a few years now but only surface every couple of years to release another album then go back underground. They have a levitating metallic sound that falls somewhere between the Durutti Column, Bark Psychosis and Labradford with percussive clicks operating beneath dubby soundscapes. On A Lost Connection, an album purportedly about a retreat from the world, they have expanded on their minimalist techno sound and there is certainly an enveloping womblike quality to the album. It throbs around you like a warm balm.
A Lost Connection is available as a download from the band's website.
Accompanying Track: Marconi Union - We Travel
Artist: Fleet Foxes
Album: Fleet Foxes
Label: Sub Pop/Bella Union
This seems to have been around for ages and I can remember hearing it when it first leaked and being overwhelmed - it seemed very other somehow. Then I put it away for six months and tried to ignore it as it went stratospheric. It was only recently that I put it on again and it's a suite of gorgeous songs, brilliantly constructed and crucially, it feels timeless. And yet more evidence that Sub Pop are slowly, quietly building an enviably good roster of great pop bands. The poor band have absolutely no hope of following it up but there you are.
Accompanying Track: Fleet Foxes - He Doesn't Know Why
Label: Division Records
Now this is immense - a 29-minute long collaboration between Kehlvin and Rorcal, two Swiss bands, that was recorded over 4 days and it is a slab of brutal intense metal that out sludges and out shreds anything released this year. Throughout its length, the track moves from crawling doom through an intricate Isis-like centrepiece, a brooding acoustic section, to a crescendo at around the 20 minute mark that threatens to collapse under its own weight. As a friend pointed out to me, listening to this made him feel like a sabre-toothed tiger. Quite.
Artist: The Tallest Man On Earth
Album: Shallow Grave
You wouldn't have thought anyone could come out of a description that compares you to Dylan circa Another Side of Bob Dylan, with any dignity or credibility at all but Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man On Earth does, with bells on.
Accompanying Track: The Tallest Man On Earth - The Gardener
Album: Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
This is a bit of a departure for Liz Harris, or Grouper as she's better known. Well, perhaps departure is the wrong word - this is more of an unveiling. Way Their Crept (the only other Grouper record I've heard, currently) was a fuzzy miasma of effects and billowing textures, but somehow you knew the songs were in there, buried for sure, but there, as if at the bottom of a moss-choked well. This time round the fuzz-drench has all but dissipated and Harris is revealed as a haunting siren with a clutch of beautiful, aching songs. Some of the reviews I've read have naturally concentrated on the Cocteau's and This Mortal Coil element in all this, but to me this is closer to the sound Judee Sill was reaching towards - a mesmeric questing folk sound that flung itself outwards and grazed the heavens. Also, great to see Type Records back, what a year: Grouper, Peter Broderick (whose Float I've only just got but would have been a contender at the top of this list, I think) Helios, Goldmund...
Accompanying Track: Grouper - When We Fall
Accompanying Track: Grouper - Stuck
Artist: Black Mountain
Album: In The Future
It's strange having to write about a record like this because my response to it is nearly all physical but there's something comforting about Black Mountain - that there are still bands out there making great rock records. And this is a great rock record, full of molten grooves and superbly weighted crescendos and managed zones of light and dark. The band clearly have such a nuanced grasp of the dynamics of what makes a huge rock song that each track is a like hearing a narrative of the genre unfold before you. Long may they continue.
Accompanying Track: Black Mountain - Stay Free
Artist: Fuck Buttons
Album: Street Horrrsing
I was thinking there was a secret something to Fuck Button's rural violence - two blokes from Bristol splitting the atom of pastoralism and calling forth something we were all afraid to see. I was thinking of Ted Hughes holed up in his Devon farm, hiding from the oppressive weight of the countryside that pressed up against the creaking house; I was thinking of the rusted ribcages of wrecked farm machinery leaking colours under slate skies; I was thinking of Turner in the Avon Gorge having his twitching Alpine dreams, summoning winter storms; I was thinking of the popping croaking cloudcrowds of rooks and jackdaws as they settled in the tops of naked oaks at twilight. I imagine in a barn in the middle of all this, rigged up to a huge PA they would be immense - a proto-rave band, or a rave band turned inside out, incanting, pre-linguistic and primitive, the house band for the new wasted millenia...
Accompanying Track: Fuck Buttons - Sweet Love For Planet Earth
Artist: British Sea Power
Album: Do You Like Rock Music?
Label: Rough Trade
This is another album that seems to have been around for an age. When it first appeared I was mystified by the title - it sounded like a teeth-grindingly ill-judged come on and way too much to live up to. But after finally listening to the whispering one the title is spot on, and mainly because it works on a double level - BSP are after all a band utterly immersed in the mythology and time spirits of this baggage of rocks we call an island and as such their music has always been about giving voice to the arcane history that seeps from between the crags and vents beneath our feet. Do You Like Rock Music? becomes, then, a kind of document of Britain in 2008.
I think there's something in the fact that the band went to the States to record this, as though the period of exile gave form to a mist of nascent thoughts and ideas. The album was last to be recorded in the Hotel2Tango in Montreal, a loft space made famous by the Godspeed collective. It was produced by Howard Bilerman, a semi-fabled figure who drummed on The Arcade Fire's first album and has produced bands such as A Silver Mt Zion and the Black Ox Orkesta. His influence must have bled into the album as there is a strong sense of Arcade Fire style dynamics and confidence throughout (not least on the massive instrumental 'The Great Skua' which is the album's centrepiece). The album was mixed by Graham Sutherland, he of Bark Psychosis, and he has given the record a real sense of depth and polish - it has a chasmic sense of power about it, which is only backed up by the thematic quality of the lyrics.
And what of the lyrics? Is anyone else doing this kind of broad literate sweep? Incorporating child rhymes, wrestling chants, historical documents, Reichian mysticism? 'I'll be the first to admit this a bright but haunted age' - that they manage to do all that without sounding up their own arses or mawkish is a feat in itself. And I'm glad there is someone out there listening to the ghosts, channelling the boundless muster of spectres... Any other year this would have been easily the album of the year. Except, except...
Accompanying Track: British Sea Power - A Trip Out
Artist: Frightened Rabbit
Album: The Midnight Organ Fight
Label: Fat Cat
So there you are: this is best record I've heard this year. There is something unique about coming to terms with a great record - a process that unfolds over a number of weeks, months, years even. The crucial thing is waiting for that hit to stop, the emotional whack that keeps you returning. What's amazed me about The Midnight Organ Fight is that for such a seemingly simple record, the force of the hit just keeps coming, stronger, deeper. I should be growing out of this scruffy guitar music with its chest ripped open, but there you are. I hope I never do.
No track with this, just go buy the fucking album.
I saw Frightened Rabbit recently, in the oddest of venues in Southampton. The Orange Roomsis the archetypal Southampton place - nondescript and bland but with a GNVQ in marketing and an ill-thought out evocative name, like it might hold mysteries. The only mystery is how every fucker in there has the same hair, and how the bar staff manage to be so surly and incompetent all at once. I'd actually booked tickets for the gig but on entering was met with confusion, as if they'd barely expected anyone to show up at all. Which unfortunately wasn't far from the truth.
There was a tiny stage in one corner of the venue, 5 yards in front of which was the mixing desk, and behind that was a small space from which people were craning either side of two stacks of amps. Directly in front of the stage were 3 armchairs. Fucking armchairs! No one saw fit to move them so they stayed throughout the gig. So did the lights. No wonder the bands looked so awkward. We Were Promised Jetpacks supported and we're an odd mix of the magnificent and the messy - plus an odd kind of schoolboy fear. Maybe it was the lights. Maybe it was us lot, forced to stand like a milk marketing board in limp judgement. Either way they're surely going to be huge. Name as destiny.
The Rabbit were immense too. With some bands, inexplicably, the emotional hit just keeps coming; and there's a raw force pouring out of Scott Hutchinson that drags something up out of you - even under the tacky glow of Southampton striplights. I'd go see them again tomorrow.
All of which is to say there's a live acoustic album of The Midnight Organ Fight on the way - called Liver! Lung! FR! it's out on October 21st. You can hear the version of Old Fashioned from it here.
Also, the band did a Daytrotter Session recently which you can also download. The version of Poke is beautiful.
See also this recent tour diary entry from Scott Hutchinson that appeared on The Guardian site.
WOXY.com presents: Frightened Rabbit from WOXY on Vimeo.
The first part of a joint interview over at LOBF, with The Twilight Sad
We Were Promised Jetpacks (photo by thomas hermoso)
More blistering, effortlessly great straight head guitar music from Scotland. Which isn't damning with faint praise as much as stating the obvious. We Were Promised Jetpacks (which might just be the best/worst name binary at the moment - inspired and trying to hard all at once) have got a template for sure - partly Postcard jangle, part tight-sprung Blondie rhythms (it's in that insistent tst-tst-tst of the hi-hat) - but much like their peers Frightened Rabbit they transcend their influences with sheer emotional force. There's nothing on release as yet, and their only EP was a freebie given out at gigs which is certainly elusive (if anyone has a copy and wants to trade or whatever then get in touch!) but the few songs that are out there are well worth tracking down. This track, 'Moving Clocks Run Slow,' is over at Paper Thin Walls - reviewed by...yes, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit.
Download:We Were Promised Jetpacks - Moving Clocks Run Slow
Listen: We Were Promised Jetpacks - Moving Clocks Run Slow
Ach, christ, what a band.
Mogwai (image by sadmafioso)
There's been various stories floating around about the new Mogwai record, apparently called The Hawk Is Howling and due out sometime this year. There's also the double disc Young Team reissue on the cards, with a mouthwatering 8 unreleased tracks included... The band have also got a new track on a Rock Action sampler given away free with this month's Plan B Magazine. The track is called 'Dracula Family' (another in a long list of great titles) and from what I can make out will be on the new album when it appears. In sound it's probably close to the glowing steel of 'Kids Will Be Skeletons' from Happy Songs... and it has a real bright tone to it, and an unusual step to the drum pattern. Check it out.
Download: Mogwai - Dracula Family
There is also a new and free Frightened Rabbit track available over at Stereogum - 'Soon Go' a b-side to their forthcoming 7" (which simply must to be 'The Modern Leper' surely?) You can also read Scott Hutchison giving a track by track rundown of The Midnight Organ Fight over at Ragged Words.