ALBUM REVIEW: Owl John – ‘Owl John’

8/10

ALBUM REVIEW: Owl John - 'Owl John' 2

Solo albums are, more often than not, a strange proposition. A singer or musician in a band feels ignored and decides to let the world hear his or her own songs simply to get their frustrations off their chest at not being allowed to have them used on their day job’s album. Results are invariably mixed and overall you’re always left wanting the artist to get back to the day job and release music with the band you love. Scott Hutchison is a different case, however. As the songwriter and singer in Frightened Rabbit his music and, at times stunning lyrics have soundtracked nights out, fights and breakups for many, many people but at the end of the last Frightened Rabbit tour, he wanted to try something different. At the suggestion of his record company, he has decided to leave the safety of his much-loved band and go solo and the result is impressive

It would be easy to expect a Frightened Rabbit like album here and whilst Owl John certainly, unavoidably does bear a resemblance to the band in places, the album does stand along with them overall. The lyrics are perhaps more cryptic and less heart on the sleeve than Frightened Rabbit but they are still intriguing from Songs About Roses veiled attacks on frontmen of bland stadium acts to Los Angeles, Be Kind and its’ love song to the city Scott’s girlfriend calls home and musically there is a far more experimentation than you might expect. Opener Cold Creeps starts off with static and feedback before treated, distorted vocal lines float in and out leading to an almost scared sounding vocal but it all works beautifully.

Track 3 Hate Music, one of the album’s highlights,  features some Jack White like guitar work, lyrics like a preacher berating his flock and a chorus imploring someone to “please stop  the rot.” Heavy stuff and certainly more powerful than Frightened Rabbit have sounded. Don’t Take Off The Gloves goes all latter-day Radiohead with its electronics and yet more interesting vocal treatment before Stupid Boy ends the album with a classic Hutchison berating himself lyric. Once the album stops you want to start playing it again and that can’t be a bad sign.

As solo albums go then this is very good. Don’t think that you’re essentially getting a Frightened Rabbit album as that’s not the case. Owl John is something to be enjoyed on its’ own and overall it is a very enjoyable album indeed.

Watch the video for ‘Red hand’ BELOW:

Some Background on Owl John

Owl John, aka Scott Hutchison of critically acclaimed Scottish group, Frightened Rabbit, is proud to announce the release of his self-titled debut album, out on 4th August through Atlantic Records. Scott will also be hitting the road through the UK in July and August, taking in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and finishing up at London’s Oslo on 6th August. The record, produced by Andy Monaghan of Frightened Rabbit and good friend Simon Liddell of Olympic Swimmers, was recorded between the Isle of Mull in Scotland and the West Coast of America. The first unveiling of Owl John came with Hate Music, which can be listened to here.

The Owl John album was born of Scott’s desire to get creatively inspired ahead of the next Frightened Rabbit record, and with the rest of the band on a break following the release of their 4th album Pedestrian Verse (they’re first with Atlantic Records) reaching the Top 10 in February 2013. Scott headed to the Isle Of Mull with the mission to write and record an album in two weeks. For a fortnight they made music by day and drank whisky by night; at the end, an album was made and ‘Owl John’ was born. There were no demos, no songs written in advance. With Andy and Simon (who also plays the guitar for Frightened Rabbit’s live band), Scott hired a space in the Island’s Tobermory Arts Centre, ‘An Tobar’. The track-listing of the album reflects the order in which the album was recorded; a chronological map of the album’s conception.

The Owl John album, which showcases Scott’s trademark brutal honesty, sees a different direction from the music of Frightened Rabbit. Raw, powerful and often heart-breaking, ‘Owl John’ will see Scott step out of Frightened Rabbit’s shadow. In Scott’s own words “it’s different enough to have a reason to exist”.

Scott has to say:

“It’s been about ten years since I had the notion to add the word ‘Owl’ as a middle name. Scott Owl John Hutchison. I thought it had a really splendid flow to it. I suppose I enjoy owls as much as most people, admiring their weird neck thing and having read ‘Plop’ countless times as a wee one. I don’t buy the wisdom bit, but they are incredibly good at being owls and it would be nice to be as effective at being a human. Sadly, I’m not and it is from this croaking foible that songs come. The desperate crunch of failure sat right next to the fizzing, spumante spark of joy. They cackle and point at each other because they don’t understand their opponent. You will find me sitting between them, eating a bag of nuts (not Brazils, they make my mouth itch) and documenting the whole sorry episode.

John is a homeless.
John is a priest.
John is a witness.
John is a beast.

It was also approximately 10 years ago that I started a band called Frightened Rabbit. In that time I’ve dedicated so much of my life to that good wee band with a stupid name, I felt it was time to indulge John. Sing it with me…

John is a weirdo.
John is a thief.
John is a wino.
Listen, bleed, weep.”

Scott hails from Selkirk, Scotland and formed Frightened Rabbit with his brother Grant (drums), bassist Billy Kennedy and guitarist Andy Monaghan in 2003. They have released 4 studio albums to date.

More information to come!

UK Tour:

22nd July – Edinburgh, Caves
23rd July – Glasgow, Cottiers Theatre
5th August – Manchester, Soup Kitchen
6th August – London, Oslo

Track Listing
1. Cold Creeps
2. Two
3. Hate Music
4. Songs About Roses
5. Los Angeles, Be Kind
6. Ten Tons Of Silence
7. A Good Reason To Grow Old
8. Red Hand
9. Don’t Take Off The Gloves
10. Stupid Boy

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