By Huntress Thompson
The State Hospital EP, a port in the storm between Frightened Rabbit’s 2011 EP and their 2013 album, offers a sound that’s more taut and slick than we’ve ever heard from the Scottish ambassadors of scruff.
They were always brutally articulate, but this time they just enunciate better. The tight production (courtesy of Leo Abrahams and the band themselves) reveals a thorough understanding of Frightened Rabbit’s strengths and where their songs can take you, and the builds and the breaks on State Hospital are all the more effective for it.
Says frontman Scott Hutchison, “I suppose certain songs just don’t fit in to an album, but we thought these four still deserved to be given more than simply ‘B-side’ status.”
The Selkirk indie outfit have now released three full-length studio albums. Four of the songs on the State Hospital EP carry a thematic hangover from 2008’s intoxicating The Midnight Organ Fight, offering fans a bit more angst before the next album starts over. Which is great, because everyone knows the best thing for a hangover is another beer the next morning.
As an indication of what’s to come, the title track stands alone, and will appear on next year’s release.
The appeal of this band is that Hutchison has had the wind knocked out of him and into every Frightened Rabbit record they’ve released. Fans have felt him sing each song since 2006 straight through their chests and out the other side, and have followed the emotional ride closely.
After the State Hospital single, the next song I heard off the EP was Home From War on YouTube. It took all of 30 seconds for Home From War to sell me on the rest of the record, and to promise that all the urgency, thirst and fearlessness from their previous records is still here to be found. So for all their tightening up, there’s no cause for fear with Frightened Rabbit – they aren’t changing into a less lovable animal, all the best Rabbitude remains.
According to Hutchison, Boxing Day has been marinating in Frightened Rabbit’s minds and setlists in various incarnations over the years until it took form in the version on this EP. It’s a slow rumbler, taking the listener carefully through the crowd before it comes out swinging in the ring near the 01:30 mark, and delivers a knockout blow around three minutes in, backing vocals and thunderous drums out in force.
These are still songs that Lloyd Dobbler would hold up on a boombox. They’re still relationship war cries, all bare-chested and balls. This isn’t emo, it’s open heart surgery through a speaker with no anaesthesia, and just someone who’s done it before to hold your hand and watch. Thank Christ for that.
True to form, the band is offering the entire EP to listen to on their Soundcloud account, explaining, “In case you wish to sample the musical delights of the EP before coughing up your hard earned cash you can listen to it in full first…” Fans will remember them offering their last EP as a free download to anyone who subscribed to their newsletter – God love ‘em.
Download the State Hospital EP here.
In the vacuum between dark and light, Siouxsie Sioux and Emmylou Harris, Amelie and Travis Bickle, Huntress Thompson is an idiot lost, and reporting from the field. If you’re after irrational rants about cupcakes and Johnny Cash (and you probably aren’t), she’s grumpy, but she’s your girl.