Scott Hutchinson, frontman of Frightened Rabbit, seems to have developed a taste for duets. The 7" single for The Loneliness and the Scream featured a duet with Craig Finn from The Hold Steady (a quirky cover of Don't Go Breaking My Heart), and there are two new ones on the band's latest release, a 3-track EP called, imaginatively, A Frightened Rabbit EP. Here Scott duets with Tracyanne Campbell - of Camera Obscura fame - and Scottish folk-mainstay Archie Fisher.
Being the over-eager FR fanboy that I am, I pre-ordered the limited edition of the 10" vinyl release which means I get to enjoy the always-impressive artwork as well as having the special joy that comes from actually being able to hold a record in your hands. But for those of you less impressed by the constraining world of atoms, you can get this EP for free (in exchange for nothing more than an email address) over at the FR website.
If you follow the link to the EP's page you'll also find a track-by-track explanation of the record written by Hutchinson himself, and it's always interesting to hear someone talking about their creative process. The downside of this approach (and I say this as an avid, nay obsessive, consumer of 'extra features', DVD commentaries and the like) is that it can demystify the act of creation, and - more importantly - forever affects the way you think about a song. In much the same way that I can't watch Luke Skywalker struggling across the icy wastes of Hoth without thinking about Irvin Kershner and the rest of the crew filming it from within the shelter of a hotel doorway, I now can't hear Scottish Winds, the EP's opener, without thinking about [spoiler alert!] the fact that it was written on a bus. Now whether or not this has any impact at all on ones enjoyment of a piece is something we could debate for hours, but thankfully the songs on this EP are of a high enough quality that it doesn't really matter. That's not to say, however, that they are up to FR's usual high standards.
Of the three songs, Fuck This Place is the only one that I imagine I'll listen to with any regularity. The duet with Campbell is a much more polished effort that the other two; Scottish Winds is nicely acerbic and vulgar but just sounds a little half-cocked to be a real FR classic, and Fisher's vocals on The Work are just a little too arch for these ears. As a treat for fans to keep interest up between albums, this EP serves its purpose admirably, but if you're new to the band I'd strongly recommend that you seek out their earlier work first. Production duties on this record were handled by the band themselves, which is always nice to see provided the band are actually any good at production. FR can get the job done, for sure, but I can't help but feel the lack of Peter Katis' reassuringly steady hand at the tiller. Katis brings out the best in the band and gives their records their distinctive sheen, so I certainly hope his influence will make a return for the band's next full-length; a record which can't come soon enough in my book.