The story of Mastersystem began when Scottish band Frightened Rabbit recruited a couple filmmakers: The Lockey brothers (Justin Lockey (Editors lead guitar since 2012) and James Lockey (Minor Victories bass) to follow them around whilst touring the Scottish Highlands. Following this, the Lockey brothers would form a musical relationship with Scott Hutchison (Frightened Rabbit’s guitarist and vocalist for Frightened Rabbit) and his brother Grant Hutchison (Frightened Rabbit’s drums, percussion, and backing vocals) to form Mastersystem.
Produced by Justin Lockey, Dance Music explores “the themes of restlessness and dissatisfaction” as well as a harsh and fuzzy collection of spikey college rock and tales of ‘still having figured shit out in life’. Scott Hutchison explained he “found myself wrestling with the ways in which I am not quite doing life right, in spite of appearing to lead a relatively joyful, playful and artistic existence.” Although there is an “obvious reference to the angst and tension” Scott “had in” his “teenage years”; “this is the anxiety of a man in his mid-30s”. Mastersystem is not Scott’s first collaboration outside Frightened Rabbit, his first being The Fruit Tree Foundation, as well as The Birthday Suit, Rod Jones and Withered Hand. Scott has also embarked upon solo material under the pseudonym, Owl John.
There is definitely some powerful and emotional lyrics on Dance Music. Proper Home talks about “the bloodshot disenfranchised souls when you realise that what you need is a proper home.” Likewise playout track, Bird is Bored of Flying sees “the earth for what it is, full of in consequence. We all want fire until it burns.” Teething is probably the most poignant and distinguished track on Dance Music telling the story about being like a child who is “Still Teething”. You genuinely feel as if the band are reliving their adolescence and the angst which accompanied it and they are using Dance Music as an outpost to rid themselves of the angst that remains within them.
The influences of Feeder, Pixies, Foo Fighters, Teenage Fan Club, not unsurprisingly The Editors, as well as the Smashing Pumpkins, can be felt. Mastersystem goes back to basics: “There are no keyboards, no fan-dangle-y computer… just a band that uses guitars, amps and a drum kit.” The sound and production will transport you back to the late nineties and early noughties.
Unfortunately, the brilliance of the Hutchison brothers which is consistently felt on Frightened Rabbit is not felt here. Neither is the benefit of each individual band members experience felt. The resulting finished product, despite having some potential is closer to a debut effort from a new unknown band with seldom past experience. With the exceptions of Teething and six minutes, long Bird is Bored of Flying, with its Arcade Fire Wake Up sounding intro; there is minimal diversity across the nine tracks which make Dance Music. Seven of the nine tracks are around three to three and a half minutes long. On this occasion going back to basics with just “guitars, amps and a drum kit” has not allowed Dance Music to bloom.