There are Scottish Bands and then there are Scottish Bands, the main difference appearing to be how gloomy their music is. A wee Scottish lass I recently met assured me that Franz Ferdinand and Belle & Sebastian weren't really Scottish because their music was, generally, far too cheery. Also only one of the Franz Ferdinand band members is actually from Scotland, but ride with me here a moment.
Therefore, the Scottish Band vanguard must surely be led by loud, chiming sad-sacks The Twilight Sad, gloomy Caledonian Arcade Fire-a likes My Latest Novel, dirty moody dirty Arab Strap and at their fore stand sultans of sadness, Frightened Rabbit. Not only are they the best, they are probably the saddest; their second album The Midnight Organ Fight was one of the top five records of last year and definitely one of the most emotionally affecting.
And they're back with a live album. Called variously Live and Acoustic at Captain's Rest or Liver! Lung! FR! depending on which corner of the globe you cling to, it completely ignores their first album Sing the Greys and focuses entirely on last year's nocturnal duelling organ disc. It excises the two interludes on the album and very slightly shuffles up the track order, but apart from that it's TMOF live, acoustic and slightly more raggedy.
But what their second effort had over their first was its polish, its perfection. Because they'd taken a bit longer honing the tracks and applying a lovely sheen over the whole thing, it punched straight to the heart without having to journey there via your brain. Two of the very best tracks on the studio album, 'Head Rolls Off' and 'The Twist' were perfect examples of the benefit that the studio polish brought to Frightened Rabbit. They therefore inevitably suffer from the live experience. 'The Twist', especially, turns from the very best bits of 'All My Friends' but about casual sex into a slow, wobbly ballad. And separated from the upbeat, pumping backdrop, Scott Hutchison's refrain of "I need human heat" sounds more like the whine of a phone-line pervert than a last ditch, triumphant effort at finding meaning in an otherwise meaningless sexual encounter.
But the longer, more mournful tracks don't suffer nearly as much, and indeed another casual sex-based ditty is the stand-out track on this release. 'Keep Yourself Warm' was great on the studio album, but stripped down and with the addition of The Twilight Sad's James Graham on backing vocals, it towers above the horizon like Arthur's Seat over Edinburgh. Even the vague unpleasantness of the line 'You won't find love in a hole" is forgiven when being torn from two ragged Scottish throats.
Actually, I should probably issue a disclaimer here: I love the Scottish accent. I can't get enough of it; any lass from up there with a liking for indie boys in glasses and a case of Irn Bru has my hand in marriage with just a Highland Toffee bar for a dowry. Anyway, moving on from my personal fetishes, the absolute desperation of this song pours out on the live version and you'll find yourself on the tube, yelling "It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm" in a faux-Highland-brogue, which is potentially embarrassing, though it admittedly does wonders for getting a seat in rush hour.
However, this is the only song that's really improved in its live incarnation. Others don't suffer as much as 'The Twist', but by no means is this an essential purchase. If you have The Midnight Organ Fight, then it's worth a listen, and if a break-up has ruined your enjoyment of it, this live album might be a good way to fall back in love with it again. If you don't have Frightened Rabbit's 2008 masterpiece, though, give Live and Acoustic at Captain's Rest a miss for now and get acquainted with that instead. Trust me, even as you cry like a girl in an England football shirt lost in Glasgow, you'll love every second of it.