Blame all those years of listening to critical punching bags for developing my tin ear to music reviews. Fortunately, I have friends who don't rest on their musical laurels, who recognize the haphazard potpourri that comprises my musical tastes, and whose opinions I respect. Thanks to everyone who's urged Frightened Rabbit on me over the last year. Your patience and your prescience have won out.
Frightened Rabbit, the Independent, September 18, 2009: We music nerds sometimes like to say that the best tunes reveal themselves on their own schedule, and titles that take weeks, months, or however long to take hold can offer the biggest reward. I can think of numerous examples of this credo, but on the other hand, there's something to be said for the immediate hook and instant appeal. Count Frightened Rabbit among the latter.
I don't know why some bands click, but I know when it does. Not a minute into Frightened Rabbit's show, I was hooked. The pealing guitar, the galloping rhythm, and the hints of melody, all before the vocals arrived, reeled me in, but you also sensed that these disparate elements were deployed in the service of something greater--and that you'd be a fool to miss it.
Simply, Frightened Rabbit rocked it, supplementing that initial blast of amazement with powerful aftershocks. Though the band's passion planted you in the moment, I couldn't help pondering what else would be possible for the group. The music could--and will, I'm sure--easily fill spaces much larger than the Independent. And if tonight's audience was any indication, the band can look forward to even more support and goodwill from their fans, perhaps through singing along, clapping in time, or shouting out names of Scottish football clubs, as was the case tonight.
Here's an advantage to attending a show as an impartial observer (or as impartial as you can be when you've paid for a ticket): It's not just your personal infatuation talking when you sense a band's sway over an audience. From the get go, the fans were in lock step with the band. Though they couldn't exactly help themselves during some of the quiet parts--such as the first song of the encore, lead singer Scott Hutchinson's solo acoustic take on "Poke," sans amplification (I love that shit)--their eagerness was neither obnoxious nor desperate. Rather, it felt like the natural expression of their desire to join in, no matter how off-key their contribution.
This ardor was put to better use on the final song, "Keep Yourself Warm," when the lyrics echoed through the club, aided and abetted by the crowd's roaring accompaniment. It's the kind of loyalty you rarely see for such a young band, and it's not hard to predict great things for them.
Filling out the bill with Frightened Rabbit were two other Scottish bands, Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks. In addition to their provenance, they shared some surface similarities, but they were far from cookie-cutter clones. True, all three upheld the fine Scottish tradition of falling far short of fashionable--in the best way possible--but whereas Twilight Sad orbited the moodier, more impressionistic end of the spectrum, We Were Promised Jetpacks wore their earnestness even more blatantly than Frightened Rabbit.
Is it too much to ask? Can't I be guaranteed a new band to fall in love with every 12 to 18 months and to be reminded that not all fledgling groups have to be so predictably derivative? For now, yes, and Frightened Rabbit is keeping that hope alive.