Monday, October 15th, 2012
Frightened Rabbit at The Mod Club in Toronto
Frank YangFor most bands, an EP is a stopgap between albums meant to keep their name out there, their fans appeased, and to buy some more time while they work on the next proper full-length. For Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit, their new State Hospital short-player was an excuse to stop work on their third album, jet across the Atlantic and play a batch of North American dates. They kind of did the same thing last Summer, though A Frightened Rabbit EP was less an excuse to tour than to have something new at the merch table after they were invited out to support Death Cab For Cutie on the amphitheatre circuit. In either case, both the tour and releases were pretty good distractions from the fact that their last album – The Winter Of Mixed Drinks – is now over two and a half years old.
But if you thought that the sold-out house at The Mod Club last Wednesday night were on hand to tell the band off in person for being tardy with new music, well you’d have been wrong. Lots of young bands have fanbases of a certain size have to accept a percentage of “oh I like that one song” and “these guys are hip so I should be here”-types amongst them, but Frightened Rabbit seem to have managed to keep theirs disproportionately, “I love this band more than life itself”. Which is impressive, if not a bit unsettling, and a proven benefit of touring constantly, being accessible to your fans, and finding that songwriting sweet spot where introverted miserablism intersects big rock action.
The last time I saw the band was a few tours ago – two sets at SXSW 2010 – and so any notes I might have on how they’ve evolved as a live act have significant gaps in them. That said, I don’t think anyone will take great offence is I say that big “FR” stage backdrop aside, they haven’t changed much at all which is to say they’re still wonderfully down to earth and earnest, and no, no one besides frontman Scott Hutchison really does much besides steadily and stolidly going about their business. And while I’m the last person who’d complain about being faced with a phalanx of Telecasters, one does have to question why they’d necessarily need a four-guitar lineup for some songs – though to their credit, they never let the arrangements get messy or overdone. But when you have more guitarists than Iron Maiden, you gotta wonder.
The set strongly favouring 2008’s Midnight Organ Fight but touched on all points of their discography to date, including reaching back to their debut Sing The Greys for “Square 9”. It’s a song that’s hardly small on record, but live had been built up to arena-scale set-closer proportions. Impressive, and brought back down to Hutchison on solo acoustic for the front half of the encore, eventually bringing the band back out for a grand “Living In Colour” to close things out for good. And here was one of the benefits of the between-album tours: there’s nothing to sell, so give the fans what they want.
It was a bit surprising that aside from a couple State Hospital selections, there wasn’t any new material at all in the fold. But even so, it’s pretty easy to guess what formula next album – due out early next year – will utilize: make it sad, make it big, give it a Scottish accent. Some might bristle at the suggestion that Frightened Rabbit work by formula, but it’s not a slight – if Scott Hutchison’s songwriting stays at the same high level that it has since the band emerged, and there’s little reason to think it won’t, then it’ll make for another bracing album of anthemic angst that will give them another excuse to tour and their fans to celebrate. And what’s wrong with that?
Exclaim also has a review of the show.
Photos: Frightened Rabbit @ The Mod Club – October 10, 2012
MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Scottish Winds”
MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”
MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “Old Old Fashioned” (live)
MP3: Frightened Rabbit – “The Modern Leper”
Video: Frightened Rabbit – “State Hospital”
Video: Frightened Rabbit – “Living In Colour”
Video: Frightened Rabbit – “The Loneliness & The Scream”
Video: Frightened Rabbit – “Nothing Like You”
Video: Frightened Rabbit – “Nothing Like You” (alternate version)
Video: Frightened Rabbit – “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”
Video: Frightened Rabbit – “Heads Roll Off”
Video: Frightened Rabbit – “The Greys”
Rolling Stone have made one of the tracks from Ash’s A-Z singles series – being released on triple-vinyl in North America in time for their North American tour, which brings them to Lee’s Palace on November 17.
Video: Two Door Cinema Club – “Sun”