Thursday, August 7, 2014

Owl John Is A Riveting Solo Debut Ride

Scott Hutchinson
Not everybody remembers it, but Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison started out as a solo artist. Even Frightened Rabbit was a solo project before Hutchison enlisted his brother Grant for his debut album, Sing The Greys. It wasn't until the band signed with Fat Cat Records that anything changed.

By the time Pedestrian Verse was released last year, Frightened Rabbit had grown to five members. Despite being one of the band's best efforts, made up of dark moods and darker deeds, Hutchison was becoming largely disenchanted with its direction and decided to take a break as Owl John.

Although this break includes guitarist Andy Monaghan (Frightened Rabbit) and Simon Liddell (Olympic Swimmers), the outing is clearly Hutchison. As he has occasionally noted, more members meant being less noisy and more anthemic. This isn't the case here.

Owl John is stripped back and indie rock raw. 

The debut album features ten tracks that open up Hutchison in ways Frightened Rabbit never could. Opening the album with Cold Creeps immediately sets the claustrophobic tone, which is significantly more pained than being alone. Even surrounded by people, the stress tightens up on him.

It's this unabridged look inside of Hutchison that makes Owl John such a compelling album. Even on shorter tracks like Hate Music, Hutchison outlines all the character flaws and labels carried around by John. He is everything from a homeless man and priest to a wino and a thief.

Hate Music rings with an unforgettable indie folk rock intensity. It's about a man who sees all his frailties and failings as unsurmountable. Everything he has done in the past has ensured how he expects to be put to rest.  If you have a chance, check out the recently released video too.

Red Hand, toward the end of the album, is considerably smoother in comparison. The song includes his all too familiar scowl, but remains surprisingly gentle given the suspiciousness and eventual disappointment that frames it until the end. There, Hutchison considers a resolution that whatever wrongs have been done don't really mean anything.

The reckless energy, always looming darkness, and well-balanced distortions mark most of the tracks. Don't Take Off The Gloves smacks of betrayal. A Good Reason To Grow Old whispers at wisdom. Stupid Boy is a self-deprecating confession that wraps up the album on a musical high note and a lyrical low note that almost apologizes for every other topic covered.

While Owl John is a departure from Frightened Rabbit, there are some anthemic glimmers on the album. Two and Songs About Roses soar as much as any compositions one might expect from the band. They're good tracks, even if it's easy to acquire a taste for the rougher edges found everywhere else on the album.

The brilliance of this album resides in how personal it is. There are reasons some people have likened it to a purge, even if there is something more elegant in the offering. Owl John offers up a rich diversity and independence that allows fans to see Hutchison again as opposed to the collective nature of Frightened Rabbit. In many ways, you might be surprised to find you like his solo work even better.

The Self-Titled Debut Of Owl John Reveals 9.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

As for Frightened Rabbit, the band seems to be getting along fine with the new lineup since Gordon Skene left over creative differences. The departure has given Simon Liddell a greater presence during live performances. Owl John has also committed to a few shows since the album release. Visit Owl John for details.

The self-titled debut Owl John can be found on Amazon or downloaded from iTunes. You can also find the self-titled album by Owl John at Barnes & Noble. While there is no way to know when Hutchison might start working on another solo contribution, there is no doubt this one will leave you wanting more.
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