Various Artists: Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit's 'The Midnight Organ Fight' (Canvasback Music/Atlantic) - Album Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, December 12th, 2019  

Various Artists

Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’

Canvasback Music/Atlantic

Jul 22, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


At the tail end of the previous decade, Glasgow, briefly, reclaimed its throne as a vital hub for music. The Twilight Sad's Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (2007) and Frightened Rabbit's The Midnight Organ Fight (2008) re-established Glasgow as a dominant force for indie-rock on a global stage after a quiet half-decade. The previous generation, comprising of Mogwai, Sons & Daughters, and Franz Ferdinand (to name a few) fully backed this new, young blood and the resulting renewed interest helped launch the careers of bands such as CHVRCHES and PAWS.  

Glasgow has always been a fiercely creative and independent city, thanks to its compact size, multiple venues, and the institutional Glasgow School of Art. Scott Hutchison, Frightened Rabbit's lead singer/songwriter, attended GSA for four years studying illustration, for example. While Scotland's wealthier capital, Edinburgh, is often touted on an international stage, this tends to exist in the summer. Glasgow, scrappier and harder-nosed, comparatively has an artistic pulse all year round.   

This is why, then, Glasgow has such a great hit-rate in producing excellent beloved musical talent. It is a tight-knit community, and in Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit's success brought international interest in the city's music scene, benefitting all those involved. Both bands have gone on to enjoy great acclaim and opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic. The slightly heavier Biffy Clyro, who marginally preceded them onto the mainstream conscious, offered tour supports to ensure their due recognition was coming.

And then, last year, it all ended in tragedy. Having performed a 10th-anniversary celebration tour of The Midnight Organ Fight in the US and UK, a compilation was planned to have various friends and peers contribute covers of Frightened Rabbit's now-iconic second full-length album.  A month later, Scott and his brother Grant Hutchison (drums) released the critically-acclaimed debut album of side-project Mastersystem, also featuring James and Justin Lockey of Editors. Another month on, the news broke that Scott had disappeared from his hotel in South Queensferry, Edinburgh, with friends and family posting desperate pleas for information. A body was found a day later by the police in the Firth of Forth, confirming Hutchison's death.

The suddenness of Hutchison's passing was a shocking one, with tributes pouring out from various musicians and friends both in the US and closer to home. Sadly, however, it was not an altogether surprising one. Hutchison has often written and spoken about his struggles with depression and mental health, be it in his songs or through his charity Tiny Changes. In a now chilling interview published by Noisey a week before Hutchison's passing, he discussed the lyrics of "Floating in the Forth" as a real thought he possessed. The song was already a challenge to listen to before knowing he would act upon its lyrics, now it is impossible.

In that regard, it is appropriate that the song is left for The Twilight Sad to cover on Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit's 'The Midnight Organ Fight', because who else could realistically manage such a difficult song? The Glasgow compatriots were the first to publically honor Scott's passing with an emotionally-charged cover of "Keep Yourself Warm" at Primavera a few weeks later and are the only act here close enough to the source material to do "Floating in the Forth" justice. In another equally inspired choice, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady tackles "Head Rolls Off," the song of which this compilation gets its name. Finn has spent a whole career questioning his catholic faith in real-time so who better to cover Hutchison's contemplation on religion.

While Tiny Changes can never replace the original, it is a fitting tribute to Frightened Rabbit's best album. Some versions are more adventurous than others, often to devastating effects, such as Daughter's version of "Poke" or Biffy Clyro's take on opener "The Modern Leper." Biffy's Simon Neil is the only vocalist present who suits Hutchison's tone and accent having grown up in a similar part of Scotland. Julien Baker, meanwhile, offers an alternate version of the song which, while more faithful to the original, equally conveys the song's heartbreaking message of a doomed relationship.

While "the breakup album" is a classically worn trope, especially amongst white middle-class men, Hutchison's lyricism prevents The Midnight Organ Fight from becoming cliched or self-indulgent. The myriad voices collected for this compilation only strengthen the power of Hutchison's words, leaving no doubt as to why this record continues to touch listeners in the depths of their souls. Across the album, Hutchison touches upon themes of mental illness, lust, sexual desire, religion, hope, and suicide with brutal honesty. The collected musicians here do an excellent job communicating these themes, whether its big names such as Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES or lesser-known acts like Oxford Collapse and Fiskur.

Little touches such as producer Peter Katis (The Philistines Jr.) re-working instrumental number "Bright Pink Bookmark" or the band's final tour supports Wintersleep covering "The Twist" are pleasantly welcome. Sarah Silverman (yes, the comedian) joining Katie Harkin for "My Backwards Walk" is a particularly interesting moment, given Manchester Orchestra also offer a version of the song.

Ultimately, Tiny Changes seeks to re-enforce the idea of Hutchison's brilliance while highlighting the dangers of depression being hidden in plain sight. Hutchison was a real talent cut far too short from us. However, the Tiny Changes mental health charity, which the proceeds of this compilation will go to, hopes to prevent future tragedies such as his. If hearing Hutchison's powerful voice sing these brilliant songs is too much, as it has proven for some, this compilation will help. As the title suggests, this is a true celebration of Hutchison's life and work and is, therefore, a complete success. (www.frightenedrabbit.com

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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