Saturday, February 14, 2009

Top 20 of 2008: #2

2. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight

I get the sense listening to Frightened Rabbit's second record that they consider themselves to still be amateurs. They talk a good deal in interviews about the short amount of time between when they first started playing together as a band and when they began recording their debut album. And you can really hear that amateurism on their first album, a garbled mess of mumbled lyrics and sluggish songs that is not worth anyone's time, even as a novelty. I'm quite glad that they still consider themselves to be amateurs on The Midnight Organ Fight, because if they didn't they might not have written such amazing, raw, risky songs or played them with such abandon. Let's hear it for the amateurs!

Even if they still feel like amateurs themselves, the songs on the record display a sophisticated grasp of structure and pace that is nowhere to be found on their first record. The one-two opening punch of "The Modern Leper" and "I Feel Better" is about as good an opening combo as can be found in pop music, and they set the tone of the album beautifully. This is a break-up album through and through, but unlike other break-up albums (I'm thinking specifically of Blood on the Trackshere), you don't any sense of hope or strength. These are self-flagellating, angry songs that point the finger of blame squarely into the mirror. It's unconventional, and it works beautifully.

Despite the startling unanimity of theme, there is a shining bright spot towards the middle of the record called "Old Old Fashioned," an entreaty to a lover to turn the TV off and dance to an old radio. It's a beautiful song, and it feels like an old Polaroid that briefly interrupts a really bad night of wallowing. And it's just as earnest and open as the rest of the album, with lines like "Give me soft, soft static, with a human voice underneath." It's quintessentially Scottish.

I think the best thing about The Midnight Organ Fight are the razor-sharp lyrics. These guys know a great couplet. Some of my favorites are:
"I am ill but I'm not dead, and I don't know which of those I'd prefer"
"I left the house without a fucking clue, and left New York City, girl, without you"
"I might not want you back but I want to kill him"
"You're the shit and I'm knee deep in it"
I'm hoping that we keep getting great stuff from these guys, but for some reason this feels like "one great album" syndrome. Somehow I feel like these guys hit on something here that they may not be able to recapture. I hope for all of our sakes that I'm wrong.


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