Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse


"I am that dickhead in the kitchen, giving wine to your best girl's gloves. I am the amateur pornographer, unpleasant publisher about hand," sings Frightened Rabbit's lead vocalist Scott Hutchison in a peculiarly high pitched voice, sitting on top of what is easily the best piano riff they have written to date. "Acts of Man" is such a strong opener that it takes the listener back to those glorified early days of Frightened Rabbit, where imagery and literal lyricism topped kooky vocal hooks and acoustic guitar progressions. Scott Hutchison sings: "While the knight in shitty armour rips the drunk out of her dress, one man tears into another, hides a coward's heart in a lion's chest." The opening track to Frightened Rabbit's fourth album is captivating and manages to already push buttons with lyricism: "He's breeding just because he cums" / "I am just like all the rest of them. Sorry, selfish, trying to improve." In the first five minutes of Pedestrian Verse, Frightened Rabbit show us what's been missing since their 2008 sophomore album The Midnight Organ Fight.

The Selkirk five piece aim to pull away from the cancerous indie folk music that plagues our charts. Drivel like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons may sound similar to these Scots, but trust me, they're not the same. The melodies and the overhead genre label are similar; however the raw musical quality, song writing and progressions are far superior and greater. "Backyard Skulls" is a very strong track with Frightened Rabbit's speciality killer lead guitar. This is what separates Frightened Rabbit from the next band, their style, their skill and Scott Hutchison's lyricism. He sings: "I can dip my head in the river, cleanse my soul. I’ll still have a stomach of a sinner, face like an unholy ghost," on the third track "Holy". The acoustic guitar rhythms of The Midnight Organ Fight are no more, instead, Scott Hutchison and co utilise electric guitars and vocal layers to create their quite authentic British alternative rock with roots deep in folk rock. 

Pre-release single "The Woodpile" really brings the album to life. After opening with beautiful instrumentation in the way of reverberation, percussion and an emotional Scott Hutchison. The chorus erupts with distortion and well-produced vocal layers. This is Frightened Rabbit's best shot at achieving a successful single, and it's quite clearly one of their most accessible and pop structured tracks to date. The guitars sound phenomenal and that's down to producer Leo Abrahams who has done an absolutely fantastic job of keeping Frightened Rabbit themselves, but catering for their new-found audience across Europe, then all the way across the pond to America, where their major record label Atlantic resides. 

There's further tracks revolving around lyrics rather than sound, such as "December's Traditions" and "Dead Now". Both are brilliant in their own right; however focus quite closely on Scott Hutchison's vocal and lyrics rather than the instrumentation. "Dead Now" is a far brighter and orchestral track with many variations and off-beat rhythms of bass and percussion. "Late March, Death March" is an interesting track and one of the few that could be misled as a Mumford & Sons single. It's quite a compliment, given Mumford & Sons success for pretty much repeating the same old structures and song writing. Scott Hutchison has a very powerful voice and the fifth track on Pedestrian Verse really highlights his personality.

At 90 seconds, "Housing (In)" is the shortest track on the album. It's a fast paced track with Scotland at the heart of Scott Hutchison's lyrics. It has nothing on "State Hospital", the track that gave its name to an EP released in 2012 and an album title within its lyrics, Pedestrian Verse. This is where we start to see the deeper connections between Scott Hutchison and his female companions, yet again. Instead of the repetitive break-up bullshit most bands seem to put out once in a while, Frightened Rabbit go for the subtle metaphors and intimate touch. For example, you won't find lyrics like: "The cheek of youth flushed red and turned gray, now she lies on the pavement, she's helped to her feet. All thighs, hair, and magpie handbags, Saturday's uniform for the fuck me parade. Brought home to keep warm in the arms of a plumber ruddy and balding, who just needs a spine to dig into, a chest for the head, and a hand for the holding." Now this is quite a verse, and it’s arguably the most emotional verse that Scott Hutchison has had to write, neatly placed on the back side of this album. 

"Nitrous Gas" shows the humility and down to earth side of Frightened Rabbit. We've talked about the major record label signing, and we've talked about hearing similar material over the past five years, but as Frightened Rabbit want their album to be, leave the business out of it. Gospel like vocal layers breeze through the tracks 'epic' feel, Scott Hutchison sings: "Go where the joyless bastard is, he's dying to bring you down with him." Even on the back side of Pedestrian Verse, Scott Hutchison finds a way to reinvent Frightened Rabbit with his lyricism. "Housing (Out)" highlights the vocal harmonies Pedestrian Verse had been missing. "The Oil Slick" is a beam of a light that shines through over such a dark album. Pedestrian Verse could very well be Frightened Rabbit's darkest album to date, in fact, it pretty much is. The lyricism has the imagery and emotion of the break-up songs on The Midnight Organ Fight, plus The Winter of Mixed Drinks and now the backlash of yet another break-up. It's as if these women Scott Hutchison has been dating actually force their relationship into turmoil so he can write more songs and keep releasing albums. That's exactly what we want, and although Pedestrian Verse signifies the transformation of Frightened Rabbit from an independent band that once opened songs with acoustic guitars and were signed to Fat Cat, to being alternative rock on paper and signed to Atlantic Records, on paper. So we're left with somewhat of a dilemma, a choice as to what Pedestrian Verse does to us as an album. It's your decision, Frightened Rabbit are a band for you, alone, intimate, Scottish and metaphorically brilliant.
~Eddie

8.0

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