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Frightened Rabbit – “Death Dream”

A still life is the last I will see of you
A painting of a panic attack

Scott Hutchison (Rest in Peace, 5/10/2018), was an inspiration to many as he battled the depression that would eventually take his life.  2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight is still seen as the benchmark for this band – and rightfully so.  It was the embodiment of being shattered, desperate, and needy; the monologue of an introvert trying to navigate his way through the most painful breakup of his life.  On ‘Floating in the Forth’, in which he imagines a suicide that he eventually carried out almost exactly 10 years later, he manages to pick himself up and – at least momentarily – conquer his depression, singing “And fully clothed, I float away (I’ll float away) / Down the Forth, into the sea / I think I’ll save suicide for another day.”  It is one of the most uplifting moments of personal triumph in the history of music.

Enter this decade, which saw the majority of Frightened Rabbit’s discography come to fruition: The Winter of Mixed Drinks (2010), Pedestrian Verse (2013), and Painting of a Panic Attack (2016).  The latter would prove to be Hutchison’s last album under the Frightened Rabbit moniker, and it has moments on it that still haunt me to this day.  At the forefront of those songs is “Death Dream”, where Hutchison recalls a dream in which he found a friend dead on the floor following a panic attack:

It was dawn. And the kitchen light was still on
I stepped in, found the suicide asleep on the floor
An open mouth, screams and makes no sound
Apart from the ring of the tinnitus of silence
You had your ear to the ground

White noise. I don’t know if there’s breathing or not
Butterflied arms, tell me that this one has flown
Blood seems black
Against the skin of your porcelain back
A still life is the last I will see of you
A painting of a panic attack

It’s a depiction so vivid that it might have alerted us to the fragility of Scott’s mental state at the time.  These aren’t images and words that you conjure out of thin air, and Hutchison was still very clearly battling demons when Painting of a Panic Attack was written.  “Death Dream” is the album’s opener, serving as an immediate and sobering reminder of what depression can do to a person.  The bare musical framing centers the song around Hutchison’s voice and words, making “Death Dream” exceedingly difficult to digest in the wake of his own suicide.  However, aside from perhaps “Floating in the Forth”, it’s the song that I most closely identify with regarding Hutchison and his long battle with mental illness.

For those perhaps still struggling to return to Frightened Rabbit’s music because it is still too painful to hear his voice, I invite you to read one of my favorite paragraphs ever written about Scott’s death – and it’s from our very own Matt Wolfe.  It perfectly encapsulates how his suicide was not a cop-out, and not an abandonment of those who related to his struggles and looked to him for leadership.  Read below:

But look: Scott was alive for ten years after The Midnight Organ Fight, and he’d been struggling with depression long before that. If we listen to the comments just on these boards, we can see he was able to use that time, tortured as so much of it must have been, to drag a number of people back from the brink. He may have saved more people from an early death than the vast majority of people will in a full life, and he did that in the vice-like grip of a mental illness. That is astonishing. Armed with this knowledge, we can replace the old narrative with a new one. We can focus not on how he died, but on how he stayed alive. -Matt Wolfe (aka Minus the Flair)

I highly encourage you to also read his full review here.  It’s as important of a piece as you’ll read anywhere on the internet regarding depression.

Perhaps after a year of mourning, and after framing his death first as a feat of survival – a decade of coping with and overcoming a mental illness that could have taken his life any time prior – we can begin to circle back and appreciate Frightened Rabbit for what it was: Hutchison’s cathartic outlet, a means of survival when he might have otherwise taken the leap back in 2008.  So many of us latched on to Frightened Rabbit, and there’s no doubt that many of the band’s songs belong all over this decade list.  “Death Dream” is my selection, but any song that reminds you of the courage and selflessness that it took Hutchison to make music, especially for as long as he did, belongs.

Read more from this decade at my homepage for Sowing’s Songs of the Decade.





SowingSeason
03.16.19
This one hurt to revisit, but it needed to be here.

furpa
03.16.19
Damn, another excellent choice. Dude I'm so into every band you highlight here, we have incredibly similar tastes lol.
Hoping to see Damien Rice or Low Roar pop up in here eventually! Keep 'em coming man.

SowingSeason
03.16.19
Nice, I'm glad to have another follower! Makes this worth continuing to have active readers :-)
One of those two is already queued to up to appear on here, but I won't divulge which.

Slex
03.16.19
100% behind this
Still so tough to listen to

bgillesp
03.16.19
Tough read but of course not for the writing. Really like the take at the end though. I unfortunately found this band due to Scott’s death but I’m sure he would have been important to me while alive had I heard him earlier.

JWT155
03.16.19
Whole album is criminally underated in my eyes. Some of their best lyrics and melodies since Midnight Organ Fight. Scott's death honestly might be the hardest I've ever had for an artist I enjoyed, met him and chatted during a show when they toured with Death Cab and he was such a down to earth guy.

SowingSeason
03.16.19
I don't want to tease this without following through, but I've been meaning to review the FR discography. Might be an idea to have this album land on review #500 should I ever make it there.

Slex
03.16.19
Would love to see that

melltuga
03.18.19
just kinda randomly stumbled upon your spotify playlist and instantly fell in love with it. thanks so much for your work, sowing!

SowingSeason
03.18.19
awesome, thanks melltuga! i'm glad people are digging this, it's a lot of effort to keep up with but totally worth it -- especially once my playlist in finalized and I can jam it on new years eve 2019 as a way to reminisce on the decade

Romulus
03.19.19
oh my god i had missed that this happened. that's absolutely devastating

Atari
03.19.19
great song. looks like I have a lot to catch up with in this series!

SowingSeason
03.19.19
Curious now if you've heard any Frightened Rabbit before Atari. Amazing, inspiring band.

mynameischan
03.19.19
great writing as always. i fell off FR after mixed drinks. gotta hear their last few releases, but i've been too sad to do it.

BigHans
03.19.19
Glad I got to see them live when I did. If I'm picking a FR song from this decade though, its The Lonliness and the Scream, hands down.

Atari
03.19.19
@Sowing, Oh, I've heard this song before - and all their albums at least once. I need to give them more time, however. I just realized there are still a bunch of tracks I haven't heard from this series though, so need to go through some of your previous posts

BigHans
03.19.19
One of my all time favorite musical moments was seeing FR in Minneapolis right after Prince died. It was like the same week. Scott did an acoustic solo cover of Purple Rain, and it absolutely fucking devastated and floored everyone in the room, for Prince's sake. Looking back on that memory, it stabs me, for Scott's sake.



Fucking RIP hard.

JWT155
03.19.19
Check out their latest Chan, it really to me may be my favorite of theirs now, or at least tied with Midnight Organ Fight.

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