Monday, March 02, 2009

Frightened Rabbit, A Scottish History

*MP3: Frightened Rabbit - "Floating In The Forth"
*MP3: Frightened Rabbit - "The Greys"

O fain I’d keep my hert entire,
Fain hain the licht o’ my desire,
But ech! the shinin’ streams ascend,
And leave me empty at the end.

For aince it’s toomed my hert and brain,
The thistle needs maun fa’ again.
—But a’ its growth ’ll never fill
The hole it’s turned my life intill! ...
-Hugh MacDiarmid, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle

Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid's seminal poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle uses the icon of the country's beloved flower as a conceit for its piss drunk ruminations on Scotland and the nature of its people. The drunk man, fallen in a ditch and shouting at the moon, is small and pathetic, his words powerful and profound.

Frightened Rabbit's acclaimed and essential The Midnight Organ Fight is partially about the loss of a girlfriend, but listen closer. In the pain and anger and sadness of the words and music, you can also find the pain and anger and sadness of a nation of people who love their country and loathe themselves. Read some Scottish history and try to come back to a line like "I am armed with the past/and a will/and a brick" unscathed. Or picture Scott Hutchison's image of attempted suicide on the Forth Road Bridge looking toward Edinburgh in “Floating in the Forth,” only to be thwarted by the sight of Edinburgh Castle rising out of a fog and the reminder that Scotland is one of the oldest nations on earth. “A fife of mine,” the Kingdom of Fife, is even older, and many folk motifs, rhythms, and vocal lines recall the old, old fashioned dances and dirges of the ancient Gaels.

Love and loathing are players in any great saga of human redemption. Pain often needs to be felt to be overcome. It's a reminder of why this music works, and why the music world needs these unassuming lads and their mighty record.

(Erik Martz)



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