Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight
The breakup album has become a cliché, but Frightened Rabbit’s 2008 stab at the genre is the best since the Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen. The Scottish band’s second full-length, The Midnight Organ Fight, is a self-lacerating glimpse into songwriter Scott Hutchison’s psyche following a prolonged breakup, and songs like “The Modern Leper” and “My Backwards Walk” are full of doubt and recrimination. But Frightened Rabbit inject a darkly comic fatalism into their shopworn subject to keep it from turning into an indulgent wallow.
There’s a forlorn Caledonian beauty in the melodies, as with album centerpiece “Keep Yourself Warm,” whose melody rises in fits and starts from the root chord, as though bagpipes could play it. But the agonizing words—“You won’t find love in a hole/It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm”—are a blistering reminder of just how shitty dating in the 21st century can be. Scott is joined by brother Grant Hutchison on drums and harmony vocals, adding a familial grounding that prevents things from tipping into pity-party territory.
For the record’s 10-year anniversary, FatCat Records has reissued The Midnight Organ Fight on vinyl. It’s a barebones release with no frills, but the 180-gram pressing is flat and clean. And while most breakup albums are irritating “woe-is-me” whine fests, Frightened Rabbit have perfectly encapsulated that feeling of being twentysomething, alcohol-sick, and existentially distrusting of your own romantic judgment. A mere decade on, it’s already starting to feel timeless.
The Velvet Underground “50th” anniversary box set
One year late in commemorating the half-century since the Velvet Underground’s debut, Universal has released a limited-edition box collecting the band’s four groundbreaking studio albums, sweetening the pot with Nico’s 1967 solo record Chelsea Girl (which featured members of the Velvets) and a recently compiled double LP of outtakes called 1969. It’s a one-stop shop for all things Velvet, and a fine showcase for the 1969 material, much of which first appeared on ’80s compilations and is just as good as what officially came out during the band’s brief lifespan.
It’s a strange package, though. Universal seems to have simply dumped the existing pressings into the box, complete in their shrink wrap. 1970’s Loaded comes from a different label altogether (Rhino), and 1968’s White Light/White Heat and 1969’s The Velvet Underground appear in their 45th anniversary editions from a few years ago. White Light/White Heat also has an unadvertised second LP of outtakes, most of which also appear on 1969.
As 1969 is available separately, it’s totally negligible for fans and collectors, and the accompanying lyric book isn’t enough to justify the price. But if this is your first dip into the Velvet pool, every note is insanely great, from Nico’s socialite battle cry on “All Tomorrow’s Parties” to the hushed folksiness of the self-titled album (here in its “Valentin” mix and not the superior “Closet” mix), from the upbeat sunshine pop of “Who Loves the Sun” to the 18-minute sonic ataxia of “Sister Ray.”