Frightened Rabbit lyricist Scott Hutchison has a penchant for prying apart the human body. On 2008's The Midnight Organ Fight, the characters rarely act of their own volition. Instead, their bodies and possessions move and yearn of their own accord: a pair of arms is evil (“Good Arms vs. Bad Arms”); a pair of trousers won't let the singer leave (“My Backwards Walk”); or the whole body just ceases to function (“Modern Leper.”) His propensity to pit component parts against each other and his sure hand with metaphor give his lyrics a casual depth. Every body dismantles itself, has its smallest details renamed as they emerge and blur, and is reconstituted in the necessary rhyme scheme. This all leaves the listener with a funny, sometimes contradictory, and brutally accurate description of a scene.
Given the dismembering nature of the lyrics, one might expect a disjointed band, but the Scottish crew was in fine form on Monday night at Berbati's Pan. Though touring for their new album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, tunes from The Midnight Organ Fight drew the most applause, especially the rollicking “Backwards Walk” (the final chorus was repeated a few extra times to wild cheering) and the exceedingly loud “Head Rolls Off.” The highlight of the night was Hutchinson's solo guitar rendition of “Poke” [see clip below], which took the place of the usual 3-minute, obligatory encore pause. The band's material, nearly always centered around a failed or failing relationship, gains a heart wrenching weight performed alone, and Hutchinson's lost-wolf musings leave no emotion to the imagination.
Frightened Rabbit's beard/band member ratio: 4/5
Beardo quaret Maps & Atlases opened the show, and the band's badass show is foreshadowed in its over the top beards. While this is fairly standard for current bands of any stripe, the intricate musicality of Maps & Atlases seems to match the groomed exuberance of it's members chin-locks, a heady haze of tight guitar lines weaving in and out of each other while playing a lithe counterpoint to Dave Davison's vocals. There are echoes of other bands in its music—my friend and I decided they feel somewhere between the Dirty Projectors and the Grateful Dead—though it never seemed derivative. While Maps & Atlases stage presence isn't explosive yet, the sheer energy and ridiculous dynamic shifts make their show better than spandex.