Smile Politely

Frightened Rabbit runs its indie rock to Pygmalion

Out of all the bands that are performing at this year’s Pygmalion Festival, the one name that caught my eye before I could process any of the headliners or sensational local acts was Frightened Rabbit. With such an intriguing name, one could only guess the type of genre that they would be categorized in before doing any extensive research. Listening to the group, however, brought forth a slew of emotions that were honestly repressed until I did a play-through of their expansive catalog. Powerful, layered guitars, booming drums, and anthemic vocal melodies put Frightened Rabbit in the foreground of indie folk rock today, and they are an act that are not to be missed at Pygmalion. 

What emotion did this group unlock in me when listening to their work? Pure and unadulterated, but yet amazing melancholia. Browsing through the titles of their tracks including “Woke Up Hurting,” “I Wish I Was Sober,” “An Otherwise Disappointing Life,” and “The Loneliness and the Scream,” one would think that they offer only bleak and gloomy songs. In actuality, much of their music is anthemic and uplifting, especially when it comes to its musicality. Lyrically, they are unmatched by other groups in the genre; songs such as “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” offers a darkened reflection of what a man expects out of himself and his failure to reach those expectations.

“Dip a toe in the ocean, oh how it hardens and it numbs
The rest of me is a version of man built to collapse in crumbs
And if I hadn’t come now to the coast to disappear
I may have died in a landslide of rocks and hopes and fears” 

It is very rare to find a group that makes a person contemplative about their fears and anxieties through poetic lyrics like Frightened Rabbit. Couple that with upbeat, catchy melodies in its driving guitar riffs, and this juxtaposed style of songwriting makes each offering from the group a musical journey to explore.

If one was not able to tell by the rough, gruff vocals of singer-guitarist Scott Hutchinson, the band hails from Scotland, and is currently based in Glasgow. Other members include Grant Hutchinson on drums, Simon Liddell on guitar, Anthony Monaghan on keys and guitar, and Billy Kennedy on bass and guitar. Currently on tour supporting their latest effort, Painting of a Panic Attack, the group is an evolved unit that has taken what made their earlier records great (heartfelt lyrics and robust musicianship) and give it a fresh perspective, thanks to experience and crisp production, done by Aaron Dessner of The National.

The track “Get Out” is a solid cut from their newest LP, incorporating little bits of electronic elements as well as vibrant rock-pop. It is a perfect representation of the progress Frightened Rabbit has made by being open to trying new things, while also staying true to their core sound as well as subject matter for their lyrics. Be on the lookout for this track on Thursday, because it is almost guaranteed to bring the house down when performed live.

“Of the heady golden dance she does
She’s an uncut drug
Find the vein and the pulse
Chased it and for a minute I was floating dead above myself”

Their preceding album, 2013’s Pedestrian Verse, is the project that I believe is the most accessible for the new listener who wishes to get a true taste of the group before catching them at Pygmalion. A critical success, tracks such as “The Woodpile,” “Holy,” and “State Hospital” are straight-up anthems so melodically uplifting that even the despondent lyrics that accompany each one would have a hard time trying to bring you down. The highlights of this album include Hutchinson’s vocal performance, as well as the rich layers of instrumentation that add such density to these songs. 

“Bereft of all social charms
Struck dumb by the hand of fear
I fall into the corner’s arms
The same way that I’ve done for years
I’m trapped in a collapsing building”

Not only will you get the unique chance to see an indie group that hails from Glasgow, Scotland, but your eyes and ears will be opened by an idiosyncratic rock sound that fires on all cylinders through both music and lyrics, proving that Frightened Rabbit is one of the premier acts to hit the stage this Pygmalion Festival.

Frightened Rabbit are playing the Pygmalion Festival Thursday, September 22nd, at the Krannert Center at 9:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit the Pygmalion Festival website.

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