Frightened Rabbit

At last!

It took me three attempts in about 4 years to get to cover a Frightened Rabbit concert.
I love this band, surely one of my favourite bands of recent times.
Because of their music, because of their songwriting, because of their Glaswegian accent which I struggle to get but I love the way it sounds.

Frightened Rabbit came out with perfect timing with Fat Cat records peak. Better put, Fat Cat records at the end of the ‘noughties’ (I hate this too, I know) signed the best bands of an emerging Scottish scene of which Frightened Rabbit was probably the pearl.
More balanced than Twilight Sad, less pretentious than Glasvegas, more skilled than We Were Promised Jetpacks, Frightened Rabbit have the merit to not record a weak song or a filler, ever. They’re not here for the hit, which paradoxically gave them a few, but for the content. Pure quality.

Scott Hutchison is the leader and the mind behind the project. The name is singular. Scott mother gave that nick to him because of his shyness. It fits the emotional and personal verses he sings.

There’s more than lyrics. Born in Glasgow, nourished with northern post-rock and whiskey fuelled songwriting, Frightened Rabbit are as if Arab Strap met Sigur Ros on a recording studio derived out of an abandoned distillery in the highlands. Which is not that far from what truly happened.

I discovered them when the second album came out, back in 2008. The Midnight Organ Fight followed a debut that, despite a great title – Sing the Greys – didn’t reach my ears. Unfortunately I couldn’t make any date of that tour.

Within The Midnight Organ Fight there is a song, Keep Yourself Warm, whose direct lyrics are like an uppercut if you stumble upon them at the right (or wrong) moment of your life.

“My hole, I’ll get my hole, I’ll get my hole
Get my hole, get my hole and I’ll find out more.
It’s a choo-choo train, a rocket launch
If we have a hormone race
i’m bound to finish first.

Can you see in the dark?
Can you see the look on your face?
The flashing white light’s been turned off,
You don’t know who’s in your bed.

It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm.
Do you really think for a fuck at half-speed you’ll find your love in a hole?

Oh, you won’t find love in a, Won’t find love in a hole.
It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.

I’m drunk, I’m drunk
And you’re probably on pills
If we’ve both got the same diseases
It’s irrelevant girl
And the room fills with steam
Oh, evaporates disappears
My point of entry is the same way
That I leave

Can you see in the dark?
Can you see the look on your face?
The flashing white light’s been turned off
You don’t know know who’s in your bed.

It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm.
Do you really think for a fuck at half-speed you’ll find your love in a hole?

But, you won’t find love in a, won’t find love in a hole.
It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.

You won’t find love in a, won’t find love in a hole.
It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself SEE in the dark!
Can you see the look in your face?
The flashing white light’s been turned off
You don’t know know who’s in your bed.

It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm
Do you really think for a fuck at half-speed you’ll find your love in a hole?”

The second time I tried to catch them live was when their third album was released. The Winter of Mixed Drinks is an even more beautiful collection of songs than the previous. Same attention to lyrics, something rare in UK these days, and a matured sound. They brought vintage cheddar and sweet grapes to go with the whisky.

This time I had a photopass sorted for their Cambridge date at the Soul Tree about 2 years ago but, again, I was in bed with a temperature trying to match 40 C. Depressingly, second miss.

…and another song shines out of the collection. Swim Until You Can’t See Land. This:

We salute at the threshold of the North Sea in my mind
And a nod to the boredom that drove me here to face the tide and swim.

I swim. Oh, swim.

Dip a toe in the ocean. Oh how it hardens and it numbs.
The rest of me is a version of man, built to collapse into crumbs.
And if I hadn’t come down to the coast to disappear
I may have died in a land-slide of rocks and hopes and fears.

So swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?

Up to my knees now, do I wade? Do I dive?
The sea has seen my like before though it’s my first and perhaps last time.
Let’s call me a baptist, call this the drowning of the past.
She’s there on the shoreline throwing stones at my back.

So swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?

Now the water’s taller than me and the land is a marker line
All I am is a body adrift in water, salt and sky.

So swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?

I was a bit worried when I read the news that Frightened Rabbit left Fat Cat to sign with a major, Atlantic Records.
They have a cult following in the USA and someone at the label must have convinced them. My worry it isn’t cliché, there is no need to mention Glasvegas again (I did) to show an example of a band that, signed by a major, gets caught in the dream of mega-success and forgets its original soul messing it all up.

If this is due to labels’ pressure, usually denied by the musicians to be confirmed only the day they get dropped, or not, it is something I will not investigate here.

Frightened Rabbit fourth album came out at the beginning of February 2013. It follows an EP which was their first Atlantic release, State Hospital, containing a handful of songs of which the title song and the closing, Wedding Gloves with a Adrian Moffat (from Arab Strap, dicto) cameo, stood out.

The arrive of Pedestrian Verse, in February 2013, terminated my worries. With a title picked from one of the verses of State Hospital and the EP song re-offered on the LP, they kept a bond with the past but managed to find the advantage of a richer production.
Without concession to their style, still intimate and touched by a beautiful songwriting, the band revamps the music. They cleverly avoided to go orchestral, Arcade Fire is just a little flame nowadays, the songs shine out in their substance. Contrary to an accepted trend, these are not songs that need the volume to be set to 10 to be appreciated, let Scott whisper his lyrics quietly in your headphones.

The half back-flip conception, a state hospital birth
The most threadbare tall story the country’s ever heard
Brought home to breathe smoke in the arms of her mother
With a blunt kitchen knife
Who just lays in a submissive position
Beneath the national weight and the slow arc of a fist

Her heart beats like a breezeblock thrown down the stairs
Her blood is thicker than concrete, forced to be brave
She was born into a grave

And in the limp three years of bored schooling
She’s accustomed to hearing that she could never run far
A slipped disc in the spine of community
A bloody curse word made pedestrian verse
Spirits in graveyards and fingers in car parks
She cries in the high street just to be heard
A screaming anchor for nothing in particular
At the foot of the fuck of it
And dragging her heels in the dirt

Her heart beats like a breezeblock thrown down the stairs
Her blood is thicker than concrete, forced to be brave
She was born into a grave

The cheek of youth flashed red and turned gray
Now she lies on the pavement, she’s helped to her feet
All thighs, hair, and magpie handbags
Saturday’s uniform for the fuck me parade
Brought home to keep warm in the arms of a plumber
Who’s ruddy and balding
Who just needs a spine to dig into
A chest for the head, and a hand for the holding

Her heart beats like a breezeblock thrown down the stairs
Her blood is thicker than concrete, forced to be brave
She was, she was

Her heart beats like a breezeblock thrown down the stairs
Her skin is thicker than concrete, forced to be brave
She was, she was

A broken elevator anthem held between floors
But if blood is thicker than concrete, all is not lost
All is not lost, all is not lost
All is not lost, all is not lost

Frightened Rabbit could play their Junction setlist in your living room and still sound amazing. Not by coincidence they made an acoustic live album. What? Yes! It is titled Quietly Now! Published in the era when live albums are marketing nonsense with sales dropping everyday and money available only for the live shows.

When their embrace the audience with their sound the intimate magic, instead of vanishing, gets bigger.

Cambridge Junction concert is on Valentine Day which generates a peculiar mixed audience of loving couples and depressed singles.
The show starts slow but, by the end of the set, a mixture of excitement and tears are perceivable. Frightened Rabbit play a music many can sympathise with. The people around prove it can make love blossom as much as being cathartic to alleviate the pain of the ones who suffered the end of love.

Frightened Rabbit will tour extensively, monitor them on [website][facebook][twitter][spotify]

Photo tip

There has been a long debate online this week about retouching and post-editing photojournalism. It followed the World Press Photo announcement of the contest who was given to a photo, clearly and heavily, manipulated in tones and levels in post-editing.

I always stood against spectacularisation of photography through the use of simple lightroom tricks, and I have been pointed by people saying that I retouch (sometimes quite heavily) some of my concert shots.
Indeed I do and I showed the differences in one example and another example.

I am not against balancing photo levels. I am not against a change in the tones. I am not a purist. I don’t believe in Gianni Berengo Gardin “True Photography”.

But I believe the intervention must be functional to the meaning of the image it cannot aim to make a dramatic shot look like a movie poster because movie posters sell.

Photojournalism (and I include live music into it, because this is the way I approach and photograph it) has an ethic responsibility, which is down to the photographer. It also has a social responsibility that is down to prizes as the World Press Photo. This kind of contests set the standard for the industry and from this week ahead photos manipulated as the winner will be an acceptable standard. Ten years ago it was not.

Sadly, the winner photographer rushed in the defensive, to explain that the light was there because of a lucky moment. Until it came out the original publication of the image that showed the light wasn’t there and was interpreted in a dramatic different way.
Where’s the problem? In the need of justify which automatically brings up a sense of guilty. To cut a long story short, personally I follow a very simple, ethic rule an Italian jornalist suggested to me.

“Retouch your images till the point you are not shy to tell they have been retouched.”

~ by Valerio on February 22, 2013.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,612 other followers

%d bloggers like this: