In his book, This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music, Adam Smith-Houghton details the various hormones released by the hypothalamus when the brain processes sad music. Chief of these is prolactin. In a delicious pleasure/pain symmetry, prolactin is released both when the brain tries to cope with emotional trauma and also, tellingly, post-orgasm. Tonight at St Johns Church in Hackney, Scott Hutchinson and Frightened Rabbit are here to make sure we get a good dose of the emo boohoos, and A WHOLE FUCK TON OF PROLACTIN. The teenage boys crying along to The Midnight Organ Fight back in 2008 are now adult boys. They have beards. They have plaid. They want that prolactin.
A church is a fittingly sombre venue for a band so intent on laying their (albeit secular) feelings bare, and one feels Scott Hutchinson, self-excoriating misrerabilist extraordinaire might just feel as at home on a cross as he does on a stage. Frightened Rabbit walk on to a rapturous scream from the crowd, and begin a set of old songs and new. Hutchinson begins with a reflection on his audience “keeping up with the times”, looking forwards and looking backwards. After musing on the subject for a while, he settles on the latter: “Fuck what all your friends from Hoxton are listening to… come and see Frightened Rabbit in a church.”
The band begin with the barnstorming emo-opener from their latest album - ‘Get Out’, and after a characteristically polite “thank you, thanks, cheers”, launch into Pedestrian Verse’s ‘Holy’ and Midnight Organ Fight’s ‘Modern Leper’. At that point the people standing up in the pews next to the sign that says ‘no standing’, stick their fingers in the air. “I used to fucking hate Winter of mixed drinks” Hutchinson confesses of the band’s slightly overdubbed, much maligned, quite brilliant third album, before beginning the first of five songs from that album - ‘Living In Colour’, ‘Things’, ‘Footshooter’ and ‘Nothing Like You’. We then get the hey-nonny barn dance of ‘Old, Old Fashioned’ from Midnight Organ Fight, and a rendition of the astonishingly awkward ‘Keep yourself warm’ sung from the church pulpit.
It’s nice to see that the black dog of melancholy still stalks Scott Hutchinson despite his move to the sunny climes of LA, and that Frightened Rabbit continue to function on the ‘if it ain’t broke…’ mantra is probably the main reason they have kept their dogged and obsessively loyal fanbase over the last decade. The band return for an encore to end on ‘The Loneliness And The Scream’, a fist-pumping Winter of Mixed Drinks standout full of ‘woahs’ and seemingly constructed entirely in order to make a crowd sing along. Needless to say, it has the desired effect.