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Frightened Rabbit - Tiny Changes: A Celebration of The Midnight Organ Fight (Album Review)

Thursday, 18 July 2019 Written by Huw Baines

Our assorted relationships with the songs we love are destined to change dramatically over time. But not always like this.

‘Tiny Changes’, an all star reimagining of Frightened Rabbit’s majestic ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’, began as a celebration but has come to mean something else. Following the death of Scott Hutchison last year it now stands more as a tribute, and an outpouring of affection for a songwriter who meant a lot of things to a lot of people. 

One of this fabulous record’s great strengths, though, is the manner in which it still finds room amid its circumstances to be celebratory.

Compiled prior to Hutchison’s death, and overseen by him, the love that the assembled artists feel for this music is readily apparent. The structural alterations, some more revolutionary than others, that have been made show a deep understanding of the source material and draw out elements that allow it to flourish in fresh hands.

So, Biffy Clyro turn The Modern Leper into a brutish stadium rock triumph, while Julien Baker peels back the same track’s layers to get at the desolate, searching nature of its words. Similarly, with their take on Poke, Daughter emphasise space and clean edges where the original was a tangle of acoustic plucking and overlapping emotions. The National’s Aaron Dessner and Chvrches vocalist Lauren Mayberry, meanwhile, take the skittish Who’d You Kill Now? and recast it with a sort of quiet majesty.

Away from the bright lights of the record’s biggest contributors, there is further treasure. Oxford Collapse, a now defunct New York indie-rock band who toured with Frightened Rabbit back in the day, have reformed to add their yowling, anxious energy to I Feel Better, and their compatriots in Right On Dynamite bring rambunctious, scruffy cool to an excellent Fast Blood.

At the heart of the record are two songs: Craig Finn’s Head Rolls Off, home to the LP’s title lyric, and the Twilight Sad’s Floating in the Forth. Finn deconstructs Hutchison’s writing and feeds it into a lilting Americana-pop framework that serves as a counterpoint to the original’s fizzing melodicism, while the Twilight Sad bring stout-hearted emotion and their own sweeping post-punk sensibility to a song that remains difficult to hear.

Both underline the fact that the best covers are only ever the best covers because the original was constructed so well that pulling it apart leads not to an empty unravelling, but something new and interesting in its own right. Accordingly, ‘Tiny Changes’ is packed with great covers because ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’ is packed with great songs. Perhaps it will help some to approach Hutchison’s music again, which is a tiny change we can all celebrate.

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