Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wabbit Season!

The Woodpile - Frightened Rabbit (YouTube)

“If you never feel bleak, life starts to lose its taste.”

On Tuesday, Frightened Rabbit will release their fourth full-length CD of new music. Pedestrian Verse is the name. I have not heard it, but I will like it, and I might well love it.

Frightened Rabbit is the closest thing going to my musical alter ego. Were I living a Tyler Durden kind of existence, where another part of myself was up and working while the surface version “slept,” I could be Frightened Rabbit. Granted, my alter ego would have to be amaaaazing at playing instruments and write actual lyrics, two things not in my surface personality’s repertoire, but you get the gist.

Frightened Rabbit owns a piece of my musical heart because they see the beauty of being dark, of wallowing in the misery of the human condition, without letting it break their spirit. The place they tap for most of their songs is the well Bruce Wayne fell in as a kid. It’s the jokes John McClain made into the walkie-talkie while he was in that bathroom picking shards of glass out of his feet.

Generally, I’m most possessed and ultimately proud of my writing when I find myself writing from that same place, the place where fear or anger or hurt must be managed tenderly and carefully, where having a sense of humor is a key to survival. This place, it’s difficult for me to find. I can’t seek it out, and I don’t have the address. I just have to stumble into it.

But Frightened Rabbit?  The opening line above, from "Skip the Youth," could serve as the band's entire mission statement.

It’s like they've established a timeshare at the corner of Despair Ave. and Giddy Circle, and they can go to this magical place any time they like. They just hop in a cool van, all their instruments in the back, and they drive there, never any traffic or roundabouts to stop them. They arrive, they don their musical gear, and they swim in this overwhelming mash-up of glee and hysteria. Rather than letting the emotions drown them, they know how to wrangle it, tame it, and force it into sonic waves and stirring words.

Frightened Rabbit is why I believe in God. Because I love this band to a degree that I can neither fully defend nor sufficiently explain. I just do. Because their music consistently taps into the very deepest parts of me, and when I emerge from the listening, I feel a kind of relief and lightness of heart that comes from a deep tissue massage or the dream of one close dance with an alluring stranger.

Their first album, Sing the Greys, is their most vanilla, but it’s a damn good vanilla. The next two albums, The Midnight Organ Fight and The Winter of Our Mixed Drinks, show the kind of growth that requires a growth of confidence, bigger budgets, more band members, better production. The turns of phrase get increasingly quirkier with each album, as Scott Hutchinson gets increasingly comfortable creating something like his own lyrical lexicon.

The band entered my life with “The Modern Leper,” still on my list of all-time favorite songs, but I didn’t love the whole album right away. It grew on me. I had to adjust, just as one’s eyes must when entering a dark empty house on an early spring afternoon. Their second one took even longer to truly love, but now I find myself wrestling with which is actually the superior album. Which is for me akin to Siamese twins sumo wrestling. Midnight pulls more heartstrings, but Mixed Drinks is a bolder cup of coffee.

State Hospital, released last September, is the perfect John the Baptist for their new album: good enough to enjoy, but flawed enough to know it’s just junior varsity Rabbit material.

It’s now Sunday night, and I’m like a lovesick puppy whimpering and scratching at the front door because I just heard my owner’s car pull into the driveway, and I can’t wait to jump up and drool and pant and pee all over the floor from the sheer excitement of welcoming Frightened Rabbit home where they belong.

OK, except I’m not really gonna piss myself. They house-broke me already.

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