Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit's The Midnight Organ Fight
- David Pollock
- 11 July 2019
Biffy Clyro, Lauren Mayberry, Ben Gibbard, Sarah Silverman and more contribute to this stunning tribute compilation
It would be better, wouldn't it, if this extraordinary album never had to exist at all? It's been eleven years since Frightened Rabbit released their second album The Midnight Organ Fight upon the world and a little over a year since the news of Scott Hutchinson's passing, and on balance it would be a more positive experience to sit here unwrapping a brand new Frabbits album.
Instead, Tiny Changes – the title is a line from 'Heads Roll Off', and also the name of the charity Scott's family has set up in his name – sees famous friends and fans explore the songs of The Midnight Organ Fight, and it's a beautiful experience in the face of how it was created. There are, first of all, some familiar local faces on the album, whose voices ring with the same sense of chiming, misty-eyed Caledonian anthemism as Scott always managed to conjure so clearly.
Biffy Clyro's opening 'The Modern Leper' is pristine, an escalation through soft, scene-setting strings, folksy acoustic guitars and their trademark wind tunnel electric squall. So many moments fit beautifully, from the way Simon Neil spits mention of the Scottish rain which the title character is dissolving in, to the perfect key changes they hammer out amid the depth of the tumult. Elsewhere, 'Who'd You Kill Now' is a delicate, waltzing duet between Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry and The National's Aaron Dessner, the latter a former producer of Frightened Rabbit.
Naturally, 'Floating in the Forth' is a tough listen which might draw tears from those aware of the context. Over layer upon layer of scything, frustrated guitars, Scott's friend James Graham of The Twilight Sad appears to be attempting an exorcism of this great ghost of a song and its on-the-nose lyrics. It's mightily powerful, and the appearance of Mayberry and Dessner directly afterwards feels like blessed respite.
Elsewhere, the transatlantic nature of many of the collaborators throws light upon the timeless precision of Scott's lyricism; a sense which has only increased since his passing, the stark human warmth of their poetry at odds with the ending of his story. Josh Ritter turns 'Old Old Fashioned' into a celebratory, banjo-pickin' hoedown; Canadians Wintersleep invest 'The Twist' with the earthy drama of Bruce Springsteen, the key 'twist yourself around me / I need company / I need human heat' lyric becoming something elemental; and The Hold Steady's Craig Finn invokes the same artist on 'Heads Roll Off', except the tone is more mournful, more that of 'Nebraska'.
Oddly, the most famous name here is the comedian Sarah Silverman, whose dreamy half-sung, half-spoken version of 'My Backwards Walk' is a collaboration with Sky Larkin's Katie Harkin, while Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard offers a synthy, lo-fi 'Keep Yourself Warm' and Daughter's 'Poke' bears an almost hymnal vocal quality. This is a striking record, mainly because Scott's songwriting and particularly his lyricism dwells ever long in the heart. The Midnight Organ Fight was written as a break-up record, but in this context its songs speaks painfully but eloquently of an even deeper sense of loss.
Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit's The Midnight Organ Fight is released by Atlantic Records on Fri 12 Jul.