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The Midnight Organ Fight 

By Frightened Rabbit.

FatCat Records.

With their sophomore effort, The Midnight Organ Fight, the band Frightened Rabbit delivers a deft assortment of songs, filled with dark, painful longings, performed with dramatic dynamics and immediacy. Recorded in two weeks with producer and engineer Peter Katis, who worked with Mercury Rev and Interpol, Frightened Rabbit have created a densely textured pop, or even folk, record that has been speeded up and undermined. In an odd way, it bears a similarity to the Velvet Underground's Loaded, which was intended to be Lou Reed's version of a pop record.

Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, this trio consists of the Hutchison brothers: Scott (vocals, guitar) and Grant (drums, percussion) and Billy (no surname revealed) on second guitar. In fact, the trio prefers not to use their second names. Scott's heavy Scottish-laden vocals are raw, yet intricately melodic. The guitars, whether acoustic or electric, are strummed fast, layered upon one another to provide a dense sound. The drums and percussion play a somewhat minimal role, varying with a barreling presence or as a percussive accompaniment.

The cautionary "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms" opens with an acoustic guitar; a soft pedal steel plays underneath, while Scott questions an ex-lover's decision. "Leave the rest/ at arms length./ Keep your naked flesh/ underneath your favorite dress." But there is also a dual purpose here: one's struggle with one's own duality. It rivals Elvis Costello's spiteful, yet intelligent, songwriting, circa 1978's This Year's Model. And there are plenty of similar gems throughout The Midnight Organ Fight. "Fast Blood" has a sonic wall of chiming guitars and hard drums that crescendo, reminiscent of early Superchunk. The rave-up of "Old Fashioned" stands as one of the record's highlights. It's a hootenanny. With fast swinging acoustic guitars and a thumping bass drum, Scott sings, "Give me soft, soft static/ with a warm voice underneath./ We can be both be old fashioned/ back to how things used to be./ Give me soft, soft static/ of an open fire and the shuffle of our feet." One senses there is an underlying tone of irony to the sentiment, but, at the same time, it is also meant to be sincere tribute to tradition — to folk music and ritual and human connection. It also signifies the loss of such things.

And as dense, sonically, as The Midnight Organ Fight is, Frightened Rabbit also understand space, leaving room for the exquisite vocal melodies. This is a record brimming with enthusiasm, energy and wit, showcasing a band (and a songwriter) with great promise, in the tradition of fine Scottish pop bands like Aztec Camera, Belle & Sebastian and Orange Juice. At the chorus of "Keep Yourself Warm," Scott chimes, "It takes more/ than fucking someone/ you don't know/ to keep yourself warm./ You won't find love in a hole ..." Coming from a young band, this is an atypical way of expressing something, well, typical. It's called poetry.

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Mark Shikuma

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