Craig Finn On… Frightened Rabbit

"funny, grim, and gorgeous all at once..."

Critics are lying to you.

Really, the only people who understand – who genuinely understand – musicians are in fact other musicians. So when Frightened Rabbit's rather sublime new album 'Pedestrian Verse' landed in our laps, we decided to get some help.

Sure, we like it, but then what does our opinion count? We've never spent long nights in the recording studio, empty days rehearsing a track which just doesn't seem to be falling together.

With that in mind, we sought out the help of The Hold Steady lynchpin Craig Finn to analyse new track 'State Hospital'.

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Frightened Rabbit is one of my favorite bands from the last decade, largely due to their talent at joining honest, often harsh, lyrics with soaring melodies. They can be funny, grim, and gorgeous all at once. The song 'State Hospital' from their new record 'Pedestrian Verse' contains all these traits in a story about a woman who keeps soldiering on through a difficulties.

One of my favorite things about great songs is the way they give you enough details to get the story but leave out enough to create space for you to make it your own. So while I can't tell for absolute certain what vocalist Scott Hutchison means all the time, to me the song seems to be about the will to live.

Like a fair amount of Frightened Rabbit songs, the lyrics here describe the drudgery of lives uninspired. Hutchison writes of a woman born into poverty and an abusive household. He paints a vivid picture of a baby breathing smoke and compares the woman's heart to a cinderblock getting thrown down the stairs. In the second verse he speaks of boredom and disconnection from school and education and suggests a beat down self esteem. He also juxtaposes the ideas of birth and death when he sings of her being born into a grave. It would seem that this woman has little to look forward to. Hutchinson is frank as always, with bleak but vivid imagery.

I really love the Frightened Rabbit songs that deal with relationships and sex. They really capture an honest picture of the hunt that goes on between opposite sexes. ('Keep Yourself Warm' and 'The Twist' from the album Midnight Organ Fight come to mind.) Once again, Hutchison goes there in this song with stunning results. The line “Spirits in graveyards and fingers in carparks” is brutal to me, but only in it's accuracy. It suggest the awkward struggle of trying to be noticed and hoping to be loved. It details an attempt to find love and attention through casual and meaningless sex. The young woman goes out trying to connect and ends the night in bed with a balding plumber who only is interested in her as a warm body.

All this is fantastically written, although possibly depressing. But things perk up in the last chorus when he says “If blood is thicker than concrete/All is not lost”. To me, this suggests that if she is human, there remain possibilities for her despite the many setbacks and obvious grim conditions. This is also where the song soars, and ends it on a positive and hopeful note. It works to me as a terrific reminder that we all have our periods of alienation and we all feel beat down sometimes, but there is always the possibility of better days 'State Hospital' is yet another great song by Frightened Rabbit that speaks to our human fears and prayers. All is not lost, indeed.

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'Pedestrian Verse' is set to be released on Monday (February 4th).

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