It is impossible to understand what Scott Hutchison is saying, but that's part of the charm. On Saturday night at Trees, the Frightened Rabbit front man bantered with the audience between songs, but unless you managed to squeeze your way to the front of the sold out room, his thick Scottish accent barely resembled English. He definitely said something about the Scotch he was swigging on stage and gave a shout out to the group's bus driver, but beyond that, everything was lost in translation.
Frightened Rabbit's Saturday show was the last stop on the band's latest American tour. The Canadian band Wintersleep (an appropriate name for a band from Halifax, Nova Scotia) opened the show with a strong, if somewhat boring set. They were catchy and tight, but their sound lacked the biting edge and hint of weirdness of the night's headliner. By the time Frightened Rabbit hit the stage, Trees was jammed with an audience of mostly very tall Bros and Dudes (including at least one in a kilt), ready to swoon like a bunch of little girls over Hutchison's lyrical talent.
Most of the night was dedicated to tracks from Frightened Rabbit's latest album, 2013's Pedestrian Verse. This is their first release with a major record label (Atlantic Records) and also their first foray into a collaborative writing process. Hutchison wrote all the songs on their previous albums himself, but for Pedestrian Verse, the whole band worked together. This deeper collaboration might be a good thing. On Saturday night they gelled perfectly. There were moments when I wished some of the songs built to a climax more effectively or quickly, but fans of their last album, 2010's The Winter of Mixed Drinks, will find plenty of catchy hits reminiscent of "Swim Until You Can't See Land."
And for the first generation of Frightened Rabbit fans, those of us who fell in love with Midnight Organ Fight, the band's aching 2008 release, there were plenty of old favorites on the set list (although "Twist" and "Keep Yourself Warm" were notably absent). The cheers greeting the pulsing opening chords of "The Modern Leper" and "My Backwards Walk" proved the crowd had plenty of longtime fans.
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When Hutchison sent the band offstage and sang solo acoustic versions of "Poke" and "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms," it was hard not to feel a few feelings.
Ironically, Hutchison is at his clearest when he sings about complex or irrational emotions. His lyrics don't always make sense, yet they do seem to make sense of life. I might never catch a mouse and present it in my mouth, he sings in "Poke," but there's one thing we've got going, and it's the only thing worth knowing, its got lots to do with magnets and the pull of the moon.
The girl in front of me turned around: "What is the name of this song? It's gorgeous."
It certainly is something. Hutchinson is a haunting singer, and even when he isn't making any sense at all, he's irresistible.