BORNE out of a prolonged period of heartache and the breakup of a tumultuous long-term relationship, Frightened Rabbit’s career-defining second album The Midnight Organ Fight remains as vital and intense as it was when it first arrived. A brutally honest yet brilliantly witty depiction of love and heartbreak, the album continues to reach out as a precious source of comfort and catharsis to listeners all over the world thanks to its deeply heartfelt lyrics and rousing indie anthems. On the eve of the band’s momentous return to Glasgow, a night which will mark the tenth anniversary of the record’s release aswell as the end of their Midnight Organ Fight tour, we look back at one of the most treasured albums to ever emerge from Scotland.
When writing the follow-up to their melancholic folk-pop debut Sing The Greys, frontman Scott Hutchison perhaps didn’t realise that his raw, open-hearted lyrics would be heard by such a widespread audience. Written a time when he was at his most emotionally vulnerable, what may have been a deeply personal and uncomfortable experience for him ultimately became an overwhelmingly cathartic one for listeners all over the world. The Midnight Organ Fight was a process of emotional evisceration; an album which Hutchison has since described as “a pure representation of thought without any censorship at all”.
Swelling with self-loathing, opening track ‘The Modern Leper’ effectively sets the tone as Hutchison sings: “Is that you in front of me/ Coming back for even more of exactly the same?/ You must be a masochist/ To love a modern leper on his last leg”. Built on strident guitars and drums which move from a galloping pace to an almighty crash, it was rare for such a rousing anthem to be riddled with this devastating sense of personal revulsion.
There is a lot more going on though; The Midnight Organ Fight is a multi-layered documentation of Hutchison’s varying emotional states as he grappled with his own heartbreak and the idea of losing someone. ‘I Feel Better’ sees him attempt to move on as he declares in a moment of defiance “This is the last song I’ll write about you”, while ‘The Twist’ is a desperate yet deeply moving ballad which sees him yearning for sex; even if it is a cold, emotionless hook-up: “You twist and whisper the wrong name I don’t care and nor do my ears, Twist yourself around me, I need company I need human heat”. This was a man laying himself bare to the world it resonated with listeners from all walks of life.
‘My Backwards Walk’ sees the band doing what they do best; injecting the overarching pain with a sharp and witty sense of humour. “I’m working on erasing you”, Hutchison wails before the track builds up to the anthemic refrain “You’re the shit and I’m knee deep in it”.
‘Keep Yourself Warm’ is perhaps the band’s most famous creation to date; the otherwise tender lament is a renowned live favourite thanks to its rather prickly chorus “It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm”. Unwilling to repress his most sensitive lyrics, The Midnight Organ Fight showed the ugly side of love at its most raw and visceral. And it’s this gritty imagery and cutting approach that struck a chord with so many people.
For all of its self-deprecation and gut-wrenching lyricism, The Midnight Organ Fight isn’t a sad listening experience though. It’s a powerfully cathartic one; full of soaring choruses, rousing rhythms, urgent guitar interplay and nervous energy. It’s a striking balance that prevents the record from becoming maudlin or self-indulgent; all while staying true to their scruffy, rustic charm. Their bombastic and unifying live shows are testament to this; these are songs to sing and drink along to; songs which make people feel; songs that people need.
In the ten years since the release of The Midnight Organ Fight, Frightened Rabbit have amassed a massive worldwide following, signed a major record label deal with Atlantic and played just about every big festival in the world. Three more polished and refined albums have followed but none have reached the personal and emotional depths of this seminal record.
A modern classic in every sense of the word, The Midnight Organ Fight will undoubtedly go down as one of the finest records to ever come out of our nation’s thriving music scene. It is rare to find an album that you can go back to time and time again and for it to feel relevant to any time, situation or location; but Frightened Rabbit achieved exactly that with their second full-length effort. Raw, intense and utterly essential, its impact has never weaned in its ten years of existence.