Scottish accented vocals, the stronger the better, are my personal preference in indie rock bands. Lucky for me, new super group Mastersystem is fronted by Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, singing out as exuberantly as ever in his signature Scottish angled words. While this meeting of musicians hasn’t compromised Scott’s robust delivery, neither has it negotiated away any of his lyrical strength and angst. Honest, sore, delving deep and pouring out the revelations of a soul searcher, Mastersystem’s Dance Music will be well recognisable to seasoned Frabbits fans – which is an excellent thing.
Also contributing to this mega band of brothers, is Grant Hutchison, Scott’s bro and Frabbit drummer, plus another set of siblings – Justin Lockey, lead guitarist of Editors, and James Lockey, both of whom play in Minor Victories (which is another super group and another story). The four’s relationship stretches back around five years, when FR invited James and Justin, who are also filmmakers, to document them on their Scottish Highland tour. The trip was the start of their creative relationship, which has thankfully brought them to this scuzzy, fuzzy, grungy guitar filled record.
Scott Hutchison said of the album, “I thought it would be interesting to play around with the themes of restlessness and dissatisfaction … this is the anxiety of a man in his mid-30s, and for a lot of this record I found myself wrestling with the ways in which I am not quite doing life right.”
Discontent is a theme of Dance Music, with song titles like ‘Teething‘, ‘Notes on a Life Not Quite Lived‘, and ‘Waste of Daylight‘ that will resonate with many people in mid-thirties and beyond, trying to live in a society with perfection pressure. Lyrics include these in ‘Must Try Harder‘: “Brace! Brace! I must try harder in every way / Try to embrace the change / I’m still learning how to be.” It’s the creative way to be hyper self critical, which means Scott’s lyrics are in contrast with his execution.
‘Proper Home‘ is a lush track and the first on this record, with big all-out guitars, audible James Lockey influence, soaring melodies, gentle fade-outs mixed with crashing climaxes. Maybe this track means Scott is considering a move from LA? It’s certainly an allusion to the angst he heard in the grunge and fuzz of his teens. The final track, ‘Bird is Bored of Flying‘, says: “… a bird / Who cared for heights / It’s seen the earth for what it is / The Big Ball of Inconsequence / Still it sings…” If Scott is the bird, thank God he still sings despite his cynicism. I for one am hoping he’ll continue serenading – and healing – us with his sorrows. Seems to me the Hutchisons and Lockeys are doing everything right with Mastersystem.
Dance Music is out now on Physical Education Recordings.