Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2. Frightened Rabbit - Modern Leper

There's something about Scotland man. For some reason, music that emerges from those moors just has something about it that's hard to deny. Maybe it's just the mournful brogue that makes every sentiment expressed by the likes of Belle and Sebastian, The Proclaimers*, Glasvegas, and Franz Ferdinand sound like the world is actually going to end or begin in the immediate fallout of said sentiment. I think there must be something else though... and here's why: Hank Williams Sr. Many of the readers of this blog have heard me wax crazy on the link between the culture of my dear ol' Blue Ridge Mountain home and that of the Scots-Irish pre-soccer Hooligans that originally populated the area. Their way of life became our way of life, only different. Haggis became chitterlings and brains and eggs. The sheep dog became the hound dog. Tom Dula became Tom Dooley. The link though was never completely lost, we were bound by the intentionally hard scrabble existence that we chose for ourselves. Coming down from the highlands and joining jolly ol' England would have been easier... but it wasn't home just like moving on up to Ohio or Detroit was easier for the downtrodden of the Appalachian during the Depression... but no matter what, it still wasn't home and many of these transplanted hillbillies came home sooner rather than later. It's that passive acceptance of a difficult life for the sake of independence that binds us to our Scottish cousins. You hear that in Hank Williams Sr.'s voice... listen to "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and tell me that HE doesn't know the same life as Stuart Murdoch in Belle and Sebastian's "Get Me Away from Here I'm Dying." I don't know that Murdoch and company ever rocked Hank Sr. in the studio so I wouldn't draw a direct line of influence but the connection is more organic... more genetic.. and it permeates modern country and music like Frightened Rabbit's "Modern Leper" to this day.

That genetically coded sadness is strong in this one. The single most self loathingly bleak line of the year might be when lead singer Scott Hutchinson strains through the chorus, "Is that you in front of me? Coming back for even more of exactly the same? You must be a masochist to love a modern leper on his last legs." What isn't clear though is whether this is a break up song or a love song. Is this his goodbye or his ode?

*no joke

1 comment:

Goodwin said...

You left out perhaps the most mournful and critically acclaimed of all Scottish bands: Del Amitri. Also Simple Minds. Great post though, I never realized the Highlands/Blue Ridge connection.