Does anyone else remember the days before streaming services? Before playlists? If you wanted to get someone into a certain band, or play them a selection of the artists you’d be watching live at the weekend, you couldn’t just drag every song they’d ever written into a playlist and send it to them over email. Nope. You really had to think about it, to distil that feeling you wanted to give them down into a few tough choices.
Tapes had two sides, both 45 minutes long. You had that long to say what you needed to say and then it was time to move on. We’re bringing that challenge back in our mixtape. 45 minutes to convince someone why they should like a certain band, artist, genre, or era.
Today, I have 45 minutes to tell you why you should love the late great Scott Hutchison, using songs from Frightened Rabbit and his side projects Owl John and Mastersystem. Here I go:
Snake – Frightened Rabbit (2.32)
It’s a short one from Frightened Rabbit’s debut to kick us off. The lovely, beautiful, hilarious, and charming ‘Snake’. Is it their best song? Definitely not. But it is the earliest example of the thing that made everything Scott Hutchison touched turn to gold – his personality. A song about a gay snake draught excluder and a car called wheels – what better place to start?
Poke – Frightened Rabbit (4.36)
From the slightly ridiculous to the well and truly sublime. The whole of The Midnight Organ Fight is majestic and we will definitely be revisiting it later in this mixtape, but ‘Poke’ is the song that shows how far Scott’s writing grew between album one and album two. A heartbreakingly honest song that sits close to the end of the most touching and poetic breakup album in musical history. Great lyrics, one of Scott’s best ever vocals, and a simple but mesmerising guitar line. Perfection.
Swim Until You Can’t See Land – Frightened Rabbit (4.19)
Frightened Rabbit went bigger and bolder on The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, almost completely abandoning the folky tones of The Midnight Organ Fight for more of an indie aesthetic. At its heart, though, the music was still about the same things – mental health, mixed up emotions, finding a way to be. ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ was perhaps their most chart-friendly track to date – but listen to the words. A pop song about a person on the edge. And in ‘are you a man or are you a bag of sand’, we have one of their most memorable refrains and a line we all wish we were still singing back at Scott from the middle of a packed venue.
Holy – Frightened Rabbit (3.39)
I can hear my fellow Frightened Rabbits calling me predictable at this point, but remember that this is a mixtape aiming to pull in the uninitiated. Can any of you say you’d leave ‘Holy’ off? ‘You’re acting all holy/me, I’m just full of holes’ is just one of the many amazing couplets that Scott put to the page, but it’s one of my very favourites. This diatribe against hypocrisy and call for acceptance is an absolute anthem.
I Wish I Was Sober – Frightened Rabbit (3.22)
I’m only eighteen and a half minutes in to this mixtape and I’m already getting upset about the songs I’ll have to leave out. I hope I get to revisit their final album Painting of a Panic Attack, but if I do only get to include one of its magnificent songs then it absolutely has to be ‘I Wish I Was Sober.’ This is Scott’s writing at its absolute strongest. Painfully open, aggressively honest, poetic as hell. Tough to hear but somehow also as uplifting as it comes. Perhaps my favourite opening verse of all time.
Songs About Roses – Owl John (3.50)
If there’s a mantra to Scott’s songs, it’s that music has meaning. There’s not a single song in his back catalogue that isn’t imbued with story, ripe with significance, whatever that may be. Love, loss, sanity, struggle. In ‘Songs About Roses’ he rails against those who release music without much to say – we need no more songs about roses, he tells us. Give us truth, give us protest, give us something new. A beautiful song about asking people to shut the fuck up if they’ve got nothing of import to sing about. I love it.
Bird Is Bored Of Flying – Mastersystem (6.11)
This song took on extra meaning when we lost Scott in May 2018. In fact, the whole Mastersystem album, released just months before his death, became impossible to listen to without spotting hints towards the way he was feeling – the edge he was approaching. While I can’t listen to this song all the time, I can’t help but admire how someone in such pain put so much of himself into an incredible six minutes of music. Despite it being by far the loudest song on this mixtape now, when I listen, it gives me some peace.
Old, Old Fashioned – Frightened Rabbit (3.42)
Listen. In reality, I could just scrap this mixtape and tell you to go and listen to the whole of The Midnight Organ Fight (my third favourite album of all time). But we need some content for the website, so I won’t. It’s hard to pick what song to include from this masterpiece next, but I’m going to follow ‘Bird Is Bored Of Flying’ with the most joyful Frightened Rabbit song on offer. Imagine him dancing, kicking his feet, turning off the TV and having a good time.
Today’s Cross – Frightened Rabbit (3.33)
Perhaps the closest Frightened Rabbit got to glitchy and experimental, this song is in as my favourite example of their superb B-side game. This is a banger in every definition of the word. One of the few Scott Hutchison songs that has me throwing shapes in the kitchen.
A Lick Of Paint – Frightened Rabbit (3.42)
Fuck. So many amazing songs are going to get missed and I apologise, but this one holds a very special place in my heart. What he does with his words in this song is simply awe-inspiring. Scott was the most truthful songwriter I have had the pleasure of listening to, and I strongly relate to his analogy of needing a ‘lick of paint’ in this song. May be the best expression of taking time to look after yourself that I’ve ever heard in song.
The Loneliness and the Scream – Frightened Rabbit (4.09)
Don’t worry Frabbits, I haven’t forgotten. There was no way I could make this mixtape without the perennial gig closer, the absolute anthem, the pure release that is ‘The Loneliness And The Scream.’ Has an admittance of struggle ever sounded so joyful? Scott was all about acceptance and honesty when it came to his mental health, and this song was the ultimate expression of that.
Keep Yourself Warm – Frightened Rabbit (5.33)
‘My hole, I’ll get my hole, I’ll get my hole…’
Do I need to say more than that? If this was just for the fans then probably not, but for anyone else – this is the one. The song that says it all. ‘It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm.’ That may, to some, sound glib. But in the lyrics to this song Scott says everything – reach out to those you love, find companionship, but look out for yourself as you go. The key expression of one of music’s key songwriters.
So fellow Frabbits, what do you think? I can count at least 15 songs I wish could have made the cut but I’m pleased with the job I did in 45 minutes.
And to the uninitiated, please do give this mixtape a listen. Scott was a legend among men, a songwriting extraordinaire, and a truth-telling genius. Everyone needs his songs in their lives.
Words by Fran Slater