Monday, April 7th, 2008
The Midnight Organ Fight
Photo by Dave Gourley
I have a hunch that UK label Fat Cat Records has a secret lab, somewhere in the Scottish highlands, where they have a team of scientists concocting bands specifically engineered to be addicting to my ears. Last year, they got me hooked on The Twilight Sad and this year, the aural drug of choice is The Midnight Organ Fight, the second album from Frightened Rabbit due out next Tuesday.
The parallels are more circumstantial than quantitative, however, related more to the timing of the discoveries – I got the Twilight Sad record in early April of last year and discovered Frightened Rabbit just before SxSW this year – and the sheer gobsmacking effect both records have had on me. Musically, there are some comparisons to be drawn – thick Scottish accents delivering declarations of angst, in particular – but there’s more differences than similarities. Whereas The Twilight Sad deal with with abstracted, existential concerns bellowed overtop a churning wall of sound, Frightened Rabbit are focused more on the personal and mundane and are less an aural wall than a wire fence in a meadow, albeit a fence that’s electrified and barbed.
But despite the rootsiness inherent in their songs, there’s little on Midnight Organ Fight that you’d call pastoral. Head Rabbit Scott Hutchison’s anxious ponderings and perplexions on matters of the heart are delivered with a healthy dose of downcast desperation – consider lines like “Twist and whisper the wrong name/I don’t care and nor do my ears… I need company/I need human heat” from “The Twist” and “You’re the shit and I’m knee deep in it” from “My Backwards Walk” – but thanks to producer Peter Katis (The National, Interpol), they still manage to be grand, anthemic and uplifting without losing their essential dourness.
The Twilight Sad’s Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters proved to have the legs to remain a favourite through 2007 to today, and while it’s obviously early on, I’m not seeing any reason that The Midnight Organ Fight can’t do the same – it’s held up quite well to heavy rotation thus far. I can only hope that there is an intention to work this record hard on this side of the Atlantic, and a tour is forthcoming sometime soon. The half hour or so I saw them play at SxSW wasn’t nearly enough, especially when it was obvious they were just as potent live as on record. And if they are putting together a tour, I have a suggestion for tourmates…
WOXY features a downloadable Lounge Act session with the band recorded at SxSW, The Scotsman talks to Scott Hutchinson about the differences between the new record and their debut Sing The Greys while FatCat is offering downloads of the demos from that record that attracted the label’s interest in the first place.
Pitchfork has details on a new release from The National. Almost a year to the day after the release of Boxer, the Vincent Moon-helmed film detailing the creation of said masterpiece – A Skin, A Night – will be getting a release on DVD come May 20. It will be accompanied by a 12-song companion disc entitled The Virginia EP (EP?) comprised of live tracks, demos and whatnot. The National are in town June 8 at the Molson Amphitheatre with R.E.M. and Modest Mouse. Speaking of which, I love how my $30 lawn seat managed to pick up 66% worth of service charges en route to the checkout. Oh Ticketmaster, I hope you get gout.
Trailer: A Skin, A Night
Chart talks to Billy Bragg about politics, activism and a possible return to Mermaid Avenue. And also his new album, Mr Love & Justice, out tomorrow. Bragg also recaps some music currently catching his ear for The New York Times. He’s playing Harbourfront Centre on June 17.
Support for the upcoming Rilo Kiley tour, which stops in at the Phoenix on May 28, has been announced as Thao, who is working her solid new record We Brave Bee Stings And All. I missed her show at Sneaky Dee’s last month thanks to a post-SxSW hangover and will have just returned from Europe a couple days before this one. Figures. QRO and Washingtonian.com have Q&As with Ms Nguyen.
Chart talks to Dean Wareham about Dean & Britta while The New York Times gets Liz Phair to review his memoirs, Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance. Which I still haven’t read. Don’t tell me how it ends.
And speaking of festival lineups, how is it that the Lollapalooza 2008 roster can feature some of my favourite bands ever, past and present, and yet I’m feeling almost no compulsion to attend? Maybe it’s the fact that I already checked and there are, like, no hotels whatsoever to be found anywhere near Grant Park. Oh bitter irony that last year, I had a hotel booked across the street as far back as January and then cancelled it when I saw the lineup…
Pitchfork TV is now live and they’re kicking things off with a pretty sweet Radiohead performance vid. Thom Yorke drums? Who knew. Update: Pre-sale for Radiohead’s August 15 show at the Molson Amphitheatre – Grizzly Bear is opening – will have a presale on Wednesday, April 9, with general on-sale this Saturday, April 12. And if you’re getting lawns, Thierry’s point in the comments about maybe going down to the Amphitheatre box office and dodging service charges is a good one. Assuming it doesn’t sell out in two minutes. Which it will.
The Catbirdseat pays tribute to the late Chuck Heston.