Updated: May 15
Frightened Rabbit's legendary second album is full of heartache, honesty and hope. Here's a look at why this record and the lyrics of the late singer Scott Hutchison still carry so much weight.
Seeing Frightened Rabbit in November 2008 for the first time was a special moment. But it almost didn't happen.
Unaware of the greatness next door, my friends and I decided to get a couple of pints in at the bar at Edinburgh's Corn Exchange before heading into the main hall to see American emo-indie cult band Death Cab For Cutie. With the bar queue getting longer, we took the unprecedented step of seeing if the support act were up to much.
Marching to as central location as we could, we were met with the sight of an impassioned, locally-accented lead singer pouring his heart out on the Edinburgh-suburban venue stage. Scott Hutchison was belting out his band's infamous track 'Keep Yourself Warm' and something about the band just clicked. In an unexpected move, we delayed our trip back to the bar to watch the end of their set. Because, well, sometimes sacrifices need to be made!
"It takes more than f***ing someone you don't know to keep warm" was the chorus cry, a song which read out sounds so juvenile, yet delivered with the heroic emotion of Scott, couldn't help but leave a lasting impression.
As I stood on the last train back to Glasgow Queen Street after the gig, amongst an intoxicated mob of returning Ryan Adams and Death Cab fans attempting to muster up a singsong of 'I Will Follow You Into The Dark', I was absolutely buzzing to learn more about the support band I'd just heard. The love affair was about to begin!
On 10 May 2018, Scott Hutchison's body was found on the banks of the Firth of Forth. It hit me hard and I'd been so heartbroken for the death of someone I didn't know. Tears were shed and the grief was real. It honestly felt like a friend had died.
Frightened Rabbit were one of a kind, Scott Hutchison a man who poured his heart into his lyrics with brutal honesty. He was a shoulder to cry on and a band to unify people. They provided hope that things were going to be ok.
You could tell from Frightened Rabbit's music that Scott Hutchison was a tortured soul, but on stage was a different story altogether. A cult-like fanbase gathered for each gig and there'd be two hours of singalongs, moshing and dancing. It was all held together by Scott's infectious charisma and funny stories in between songs.
Each of their six gigs I attended was a celebration. You wouldn't fail to come out of a gig with a smile on your face and your clothes stinking of a mixture of Tennants Lager and sweat.
Formed in the Scottish Border town Selkirk in 2003, Frightened Rabbit were initially a solo project of Scott Hutchison, soon expanding to include his brother Grant and Billy Kennedy. Later they'd bring in Andy Monaghan, Simon Liddell and Gordon Skene (a man whose name my friend and I used to randomly sing out to the tune of KC & the Sunshine Band's 'Baby, Give It Up' on nights out...oh how I miss those days!).
They released their debut Sing the Greys in 2006, with a remastered release the following year after they'd signed for Brighton's Fat Cat Records.
My entry point to the band was their second album; The Midnight Organ Fight (13 April 2008), an album that had formed the majority of their Death Cab support set. In a unique mix of alternative rock and indie-folk, the album was met with universal acclaim for Scott's unique and honest take on a number of subjects. The topics mainly included heartbreak, touching on; toxic relationships, post-relationship jealousy and the emptiness of one-night stands.
The album opened with the indie-folk 'The Modern Leper', Scott using leprosy as a metaphor for his mental state. The first half also features seemingly cheery songs like 'Good Arms vs. Bad Arms' and 'Old Old Fashioned' which speak honestly about failing relationships and regret. Later, on the beautiful, haunting and acoustic 'Poke', Scott sings about the last legs of a once-thriving relationship.
The most instantly grabbing song is a midway track called 'Head Rolls Off'. Uplifting and moving at the same time, the band give a life purpose to those who feel they have nothing. Scott declares in the chorus, "When my blood stops, someone else's will not/ When my head rolls off, someone else's will turn / And while I'm alive, I'll make tiny changes to earth". It's a beautiful call to arms and a mantra for those feeling lost and alone.
'My Backwards Walk' is the most painful song on the record, Scott singing about the conflict he's having leaving a relationship both emotionally and physically ("I'm working on erasing you / Just don't have the proper tools / I get hammered, forget that you exist/ There's no way I'm forgetting this").
It finishes on a chant-a-long refrain of "You're the sh*t and I'm knee-deep in it", which, at gigs, would usually be followed by crowds of people losing their sh*t in solidarity. He's in a sticky situation and doesn't know how to resolve it. And that's what we loved about them, sometimes they didn't have the answers and were honest enough to admit it.
One track on the album is so painful to listen to I've only just started listening to it again. Final track 'Floating in the Forth' sees the protagonist of the song plot his own suicide by jumping off Edinburgh's Forth Road Bridge. The song finishes on a hopeful note as he decides to "save suicide for another year". This is instead of "another day" as the earlier chorus had suggested.
In an interview with Noisey only a week before his death, Scott said:
"'Floating in the Forth' was real a real tough one (to perform on the album's tenth anniversary tour). It's a real thing. It's a real thought. It's a thought that I've taken to a place that I'm less comfortable with...I've gone 90% of the way through the song in real life...it's heartening to know that I've been through that, and I'm stood there performing that song, alive and feeling good about it".
Unfortunately, Scott went the full 100% a week later and was found floating in the very firth he'd written about 10 years before. With the news, an entire fanbase wept. But after a while of mourning, the sadness was overcome with reflection and appreciation for what Frightened Rabbit stood for.
With Scott's death came headline news and unwanted attention, though that attention led to more people discovering the brilliance of the band for the first time.
The legacy of Frightened Rabbit and Scott Hutchison was to tell people to be true to themselves, be honest and don't be afraid to reveal their vulnerabilities. They let people know they've got nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to anxiety, depression and insecurities.
After The Midnight Organ Fight, Frightened Rabbit released The Winter of Mixed Drinks in 2010 and it was another record full of brilliantly honest indie rock songs packed with emotion and cheer. They'd release a further two album (Pedestrian Verse in 2013 and Painting of a Panic Attack in 2016), leaving behind an array of beautiful work and a legacy which will linger for years to come.
However, The Midnight Organ Fight would remain the one that would receive the highest acclaim. In April 2018, I attended a tenth-anniversary show at Glasgow's 02 Academy. Little did I know it would act as my send off to the band and to Scott, a man whose lyrics I'd turned to in good times and bad. And what a send-off it was, the band pouring everything into another heartfelt and celebratory evening.
Many bands have compromised their integrity to seek the next level of celebrity and mainstream acclaim, but Frightened Rabbit always did things on their terms. It's why so many loved them. Be true to yourself, don't change for anyone and don't be afraid of admitting your problems.
They made more than a tiny change to people's lives and that's the legacy of the band and The Midnight Organ Fight in particular. And what a legacy they've left for their growing fanbase.
In 2019, a cover album Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit's 'The Midnight Organ Fight' was released featuring the likes of Biffy Clyro, Daughter, The Twilight Sad, Manchester Orchestra, Aaron Dressner (The National) and Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches). It further proved how highly regarded the record was within the indie community and had us falling in love with it all over again!
In the wake of Scott's death, the Tiny Changes mental charity was formed to help young minds overcome their mental issues. You find out more about Tiny Changes and get support by visiting the Tiny Changes website.