Liver! Lung! FR! (Live)
Fat Cat Records
3.5 of 5 stars
In “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” the titular characters run around New York City in search of the ultimate, unknown hipster band, Fluffy. In real life, Frightened Rabbit is that archetypical hipster band. As a relatively unknown, but beloved, indie band with a furry friend as their namesake, they are fluffy. Liver! Lung! FR! is a live version of tracks off their last studio release The Midnight Organ Fight, a popular and successful sophomore album.
A group of gruff Scotsmen, Frightened Rabbit is a self-proclaimed quintessential “pop/folk/indie” band. To be sure, most of its studio albums are much more indie rock than anything else, but Liver! Lung! FR! shows off the band’s softer side. As a live album, it’s restricted to a simple format and boosts a clean acoustic sound.
Live and acoustic, Hutchinson’s recognizable vocals are especially notable, full of tremor and emotion, cracking as he strains for those allusive high notes and wavering in the softer ballads. Their songs are intelligent and poetic, though solemn and gloomy. In “Head Rolls Off” Hutchinson sings of his somewhat jaded view of religion and death, asking, “Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name / how come one man got so much fame?” and stating, “When my blood stops / someone else’s will not.” As for his view on the afterlife, he elaborates: “I believe in a house in the clouds / and God’s got his dead friends ‘round / he’s painted all the walls red / to remind them they’re all dead.” But it’s not all gloom and doom. The song ends on a hopeful note, proclaiming, “While I’m alive / I’ll make tiny changes to earth.”
“Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” is a disturbing letter of advice from Hutchinson to an ex. He makes the usual complaint — “I might not want you back but I want to kill him … / I’m still in love with you / can’t admit it yet” — but follows with a strange forewarning: “Don’t brush with him / he might have diseases / and leave the rest at arm’s length.” Nevertheless, the song (like the rest of the tracks on the album) has a beautiful melody and Hutchinson’s magnetic vocals make it touching and engaging.
The live album includes moments of applause and some witty quipping from the band between tracks. These breaks lighten the heavy mood of the album, although there are a few more comical moments in the actual songs. “Backwards Walk” finds Hutchinson repeating, “You’re the shit and I’m knee deep in it” through to the end of the track. He gives the puzzling admission,” My clothes wont let me close the door / my trousers seem to love your floor”.
Joined by his brother, Grant David Hutchinson, and a few friends from Glasgow, Hutchinson is on a mission to “keep pop music alive by getting it out of that dress and into a sweater” according to the band’s MySpace page. In any case, Liver! Lung! FR! proves the band has gusto in and out of the studio and the simple acoustic set emphasizes Frightened Rabbit’s moody lyrical ingenuity.