On the live Liver! Lung! FR!, Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit are both stripped and grand. After two LPs, Sling the Greys and The Midnight Organ Fight, Frightened Rabbit hopped over to local Glaswegian label FatCat. They also hopped over to Glasgow’s The Captain’s Rest venue for a “primarily acoustic” rendition and recording of Midnight. Obviously not as hard-hitting as Midnight, Liver! Lung! FR! is, however, more emotional, as well as an engaging introduction to the band.
Playing Midnight in order (excepting on the record’s two short instrumental bridges, “Bright Pink Bookmark” and “Extrasupervery”), Frightened Rabbit starts with “The Modern Leper”. Acoustic, the piece’s shift from quiet to grand to alt-country is even more extreme than on the record, and works all the way around. The emotional edge is heightened on the pressing “I Feel Better”, while “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” sees its strum-catch more alt-country. “Fast Blood” brings in the darker, more foreboding Rabbit that is a little less present on Liver!.
Before “Old Old Fashioned”, singer/guitarist Scott Hutchison welcomes local musician Ross Clark (Knobhead Carys, Bitches In Tokyo) to the stage. This is also an introduction to a surprisingly funny Hutchison, who, after telling Clark that his instrument is in his “trousers” (pronounced, in thick Scottish brogue, ‘TROO-zers’), proclaims, “You can pull anything out of there: a mandolin from Ross’ arse!” And “Old Old Fashioned” lives up to its introduction, the pressing alt-folk bright and enjoyable, without being too cute (though a little less, well, old fashioned than on Midnight).
Some winning tracks still lose a little from Midnight, such as “The Twist”, which is meaningful, but not quite as overwhelming as it should be without the keys playing such a lead role. And “My Backwards Walk” is a little less sad post-rock, more melodic and high. But in between those two falls one of many tracks to actually gain, acoustic and live, “Heads Roll Off”. Its great, expansive quick-strum and keys are evocative and stand out more.
In fact, the last third of Liver! consistently improves upon the last third of Midnight. James Graham of label/Scottish mates The Twilight Sad (QRO live review) helps make the already great “Keep Yourself Warm” even better, and very, very memorable. “Poke” is less hauntingly alt-country than on Midnight, played straighter and the better for it, as its quiet, stripped nature is a definite and nice change on Liver!. Without the somewhat overdone keys on record, “Floating in the Forth” is given more of a chance to reverberate (especially the bass). And the quiet, little (barely over a minute) epilogue “Who’d You Kill Now?” does lack the male/female duet from Midnight, but also the weird warble to the vox, making it more of a fitting little finisher.
While the acoustic Liver! Lung! FR! is, in some ways, not the most well-suited introduction to Frightened Rabbit, either their other records or live normally, it lets the band’s spirit and attitude shine in a way that’s winning all on its own. Live acoustic records are always a bit tricky, but when done right, they can showcase the band’s soul (the best example of that is still Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York – QRO DVD review), and Liver! Lung! FR! certainly gets inside Frightened Rabbit.