The death of Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit this past week comes not too long after the 10-year anniversary of his band’s finest work, 2008’s Midnight Organ Fight. It was that album, the band’s second, which introduced much of the world to Hutchison’s bold, impassioned songwriting and his boisterous yet somehow haunted Scottish brogue. That he couldn’t quite leave behind his personal demons in life even as he confronted them in song doesn’t diminish the power of his work, and “My Backwards Walk” is one of the most potent pieces of his musical legacy.
Midnight Organ Fight was correctly pegged by many as a breakup album, but few realized that the songs were pointing the finger of blame right back at the writer, as Hutchison recently confirmed to The Skinny. “It’s an album about a person who left a relationship and regretted the shit out of that decision,” he said. “That’s a fairly broad brushstroke of course and nothing in life is so simple and one-sided, but I thought it was time to correct the popular notion, because even though I was very, very sad … it was my fucking fault.”
“My Backwards Walk” is, in essence, a touching exercise in futility, in that the protagonist is determined to somehow reverse time through the power of his will, something that we know is not possible. “I’m working on my backwards walk,” Hutchison tells us over some stark guitar strumming, four chords that form a pattern of fleeting optimism consistently doused by stark reality. “And the time rewinds to the month of May/ I wish we’d never met, then met today,” he sings, revealing that he is at last in a place to embrace this relationship, albeit at a point when it’s far too late.
But he persists in his quest for self-improvement, even if it will do him no good with his former love: “I’m working on my faults and cracks/ Filling in the blanks and gaps.” He quickly admits that it’s not a job he can accurately do alone: “And when I write them out they don’t make sense/ I need you to pencil in the rest.” As the song progresses, he admits to trying to drink away the memories of her, only to realize how powerless he is: “I get hammered, forget you exist/ There’s no way I’m forgetting this.”
Try as he might, he can’t escape, some gallows humor notwithstanding: “My clothes won’t let me close the door/ My trousers seem to love your floor.” With Hutchison’s voice starting to break with the intensity of his quest, the final verse brings him to his only possible destination: “I’ve been working on my backwards walk/ There’s nowhere else for me to go/ Except back to you just one last time/ Say yes before I change my mind.”
Hutchison disarms us all in the final moments, as the music breaks into a celebratory romp and he revels in the hopelessness of his situation: “You’re the shit and I’m knee deep in it.” Springing those kinds of emotional surprises became par for the course for Scott Hutchison during his time with Frightened Rabbit. In the meantime, “My Backwards Walk” is a song that will likely hold special meaning for his many fans, who certainly wish, in the wake of this tragedy, that reversals of fate were indeed possible.