Frightened Rabbit bandleader Scott Hutchison knew that he was sinking into an abyss—mentally, emotionally, even spiritually—after the 2013 release of Pedestrian Verse, the Scottish group’s breakthrough album. But he couldn’t gauge the true depth of his situation until he began seeing his followers in a dreary new light. But the singer finally got help, from some rather unusual sources. All of which led to the fifth Frightened Rabbit epistle—the aptly dubbed Painting Of A Panic Attack, produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner. Hutchison and his bandmates—Grant Hutchison, Billy Kennedy, Andy Monaghan and Simon Liddell—will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature.
Scott Hutchison: I’ve never been much of a lyrics guy. That might sound odd given the importance I’ve often placed on the lyrical content of our own songs, but it has never been the primary reason for my desire to immerse myself in anyone else’s music. Melody, dynamic and delivery are what most often attract me to a song. Thereafter, I will certainly give the words a bit of time, but if you sat me down with any of my most treasured albums, you could watch me fumble my way through the verses and almost get the choruses right.
Like a folk singer’s song I’ll groovin’ uhhhh and I’m not the kind of ehhh who asks to be hummm when the girls are looking emmmmmmm… (“Folk Singer” by Brendan Benson)
Lapalco is one of my favourite albums of all time. I still couldn’t get through the bridge/chorus of the above tune without an autocue. So I thought I’d use this piece to force myself into giving the lyrics some attention for once, and let me tell you, I’ve chosen an absolute belter: “Lick It Up” by Kiss. On the face of it, this is an astonishingly shit song, but I wondered if there might be greater poetic depths there that I had been missing, because I was so distracted by the impeccable melody, dynamic and delivery. So, as Gene has probably said many times, let’s get right into it …
“Don’t wanna wait ’til you know me better”
The first line, as it ought to, immediately sets the scene. Paul Stanley is (perhaps rightly) concerned that if the person in question spends any longer getting to know him, they’ll be off. It might be the case that he simply doesn’t want them to find out that his real name is Stanley Bert Eisen, but I immediately see even greater insecurities pouring from the page. I’m imagining the scenario: Stanley only has five or six stories that he is confident in telling. Beyond those, he’s the social equivalent of a turd floating in a swimming pool. He now finds himself rattling through story number five, and he’s running out of time. If this goes on any longer there’s no way he’s getting a kiss(!) tonight.
“Let’s just be glad for the time together”
Now this is a little curveball. We all thought he was interested in one thing and one thing only: a kiss(!) on the lips. This line reveals that he’s actually happy enough just to stand with someone in absolute silence and simply “be.” There’s a mindful quality to it, and I sense Stanley is trying to say that even though he has long since finished story number six, it’s quite enough to just exist in that moment, solemnly gripping an empty solo cup. These two lines perfectly illustrate the reason why Stanley made it into Kiss in the first place, having answered Peter Criss’ ad in Rolling Stone, which read: “Expd. Rock & Roll drummer looking for orig. grp. doing soft & hard music.” Well, these two lines in themselves impressively show both of the required qualities. Stanley, you got the job!
“Life’s such a treat, and it’s time you taste it/There ain’t a reason on earth to waste it”
I think we could all benefit from murmuring these lines under our breath every single day. Try it now, I don’t care where you are, or say it to the person next to you. Better yet, scream it into the face of the person next to you. From sleazy old kisser(!) to wise soothsayer in the space of 15 seconds.
“It ain’t a crime to be good to yourself/Lick it up, lick it up, woahh, oh yeah, it’s only right now”
Ah … ok. Lick it up. Now we’re getting into problematic territory. However, with our newfound appreciation of the subtleties of the work, we can certainly allow ourselves to approach this central line from a different angle. Far from being a crude command, it’s a call to us all to fully inhale, taste and appreciate every moment that we are alive. Have you ever looked at a filthy puddle in the street and wondered what it might taste like? Stanley is urging you to find out, and damn the consequences. As you place your tongue in the shitty water, look around you. Is anyone else having as visceral and pungent a moment this? Doubtful. Later, you will have Stanley B. Eisen to thank for the dysentery.
“Don’t need to wait for an invitation/You gotta live like you’re on vacation”
Oftentimes I have been enjoying a quiet vacation soiree with a few close friends and suddenly … in walks Stanley B Eisen. That’s right, if Stanley is on vacation then he doesn’t require an invite because “those are the holiday rules and you know it.” Don’t worry though; he’s brought his own bottle of Captain Morgan and a solo cup, because he’s really worried about getting cold sores. I think at the core of these lines is a sense that Stanley is hiding behind a self-made facade. Not only does he continuously call himself “Paul,” it’s also clear that he’s attempting to entirely lose touch with normality by acting like he’s in south Florida all the time. As Peter so deftly put it, Stanley is “soft & hard.”
So what have we learned? Nothing much. The song is still astonishingly shit, but there is conclusive evidence that if you bring your own mind to any piece of art (yes, Kiss is art), there’s bound to be something in it for you. Now I’m off to listen to “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”—you’ll probably hear my head exploding from where you stand.