I’ve been a huge fan of Scottish rockers Frightened Rabbit ever since their debut album ‘Sing the Greys’, but it’s been a long road for them, and they’ve come a long way since first breaking out their signature jangling guitars and lilting choruses.
Where ‘Sing the Greys’ was archetypal Frightened Rabbit, their second album ‘Midnight Organ Fight’ took the band’s sound in a slightly different direction, letting frontman Scott Hutchinson’s painful lyrics blend seamlessly with the revamped guitar lineup.
After their followup ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’, which delivered a more polished experience, if not necessarily a better album, they have properly hit the money with their fourth album, ‘Pedestrian Verse’.
Binding the rawness of ‘Midnight Organ Fight’ with the polish of ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’, ‘Pedestrian Verse’ is built around big choruses and pulsating guitars that Frightened Rabbit do so well.
‘Holy’ is one such example, with a guttural guitar base utilised wonderfully by Hutchinson’s expansive voice. The same could be said of the entire album, with ‘The Woodpile’ and ‘December’s Traditions’ slower but more atmospheric offerings, allowing Hutchinson to show off the full range not only of his voice, but also his wonderful song-writing.
There are still moments where the old ‘Sing the Greys’ era Frightened Rabbit peeks through, particularly in the deep and meaningful ‘Dead Now’, but whenever the band do hark back to the old days in their sound, it’s always in a far more polished way than before. It serves to highlight the growing maturity of the band’s sound, able to flit between their sounds old and new, as well as expand into places they hadn’t been before; illustrated by 2011’s ‘Frightened Rabbit EP’, which had the band try their hand (extremely successfully) at traditional folk.
In contrast, ‘Late March, Death March’ is a triumph of old-style Frightened Rabbit, a rhythmic track in the best half anthemic, half harmonic tradition of the band.
Perhaps the most impressive track on the album is final song ‘The Oil Slick’, which couples a brilliant, playful, almost Modest Mouse-y performance from Hutchinson with a deep and complex sound, complete with backing vocals and a contrasting pair of guitars that lend it the kind of emotion that their previous albums had in spades, but adding a whole new layer of sound and feel to the song.
This album isn’t a fairy tale for Frightened Rabbit; it’s not a comeback album or a stunning return to form, since the band has been putting out consistently good tunes for a while now. What it is, then, is another level. They are no longer pigeonholed into a specific style, nor are they limited in their range of sound.
Scott Hutchinson’s lyrics were always inventive and occasionally brooding, but now the full range of the band’s musical talent comes to the fore, with Scott’s brother and drummer Grant Hutchinson in particular taking on a much larger role.
Not only has their style diversified, they have managed to blend all the good things from their previous offerings into one cohesive album, with the polished production not hiding any of the rawness that is one of their trademarks.
But most of all, beside this new-found musical maturity and polish, the band have created an album of real quality that’s more than worth checking out.