Owl John, Oslo in Hackney, gig review: 'Scott Hutchinson's new album is wonderful in its stripped-down form'

Sonically, elements of Frightened Rabbit are still there, but Hutchinson has taken advantage of some additional creative freedom

"What’s this? A Jägerbomb? That’s not nice at all…"

Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit, currently touring as Owl John, has just been peer-pressured by a few hundred audience members into downing a drink thrust at him by a fan.

Cheering ensues: it’s a good atmosphere, albeit a rowdy one. Hutchinson looks uncertain as to whether he can hold the drink down and keep it there, but he’s made of stern Glaswegian stuff.

He seems slightly lost without his band tonight, but the material from his new album is wonderful in its stripped-down form. Recorded on the Isle of Mull in between bouts of song-writing with his band, he has created something stark, brooding and resentful: a musical translation of the greyest of British weather.

"Ten Tons Of Silence" is particularly haunting: Hutchinson’s voice builds and falls, faltering at first then growing stronger, thick with emotion. Big, crackling guitar riffs replace much of the instrumentation that appears on the album: it’s a different listening experience, and works just as well.

Sonically, elements of Frightened Rabbit are still there – including their surprising energy that comes into songs like "Red Hand" and "Two" - suggesting that Hutchinson has taken advantage of some additional creative freedom.

Although there have been many comparisons to fellow Scots Biffy Clyro, it’s the potent, tremorous vocals of R.E.M’s Michael Stipe recalled in this performance: filled with so much pure, honest emotion that it’s like a sucker-punch straight to the soul.

Despite being far too self-deprecating about his work (certain tracks seem rushed, as though he is unwilling to test the patience of his audience) Hutchinson’s latest solo offering remains as it should be: good, honest, and memorable.

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