Release Date: Feb 5, 2013
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
The fourth full-length record from Scotland's indie rock folksters Frightened Rabbit arrives with a few question marks over it, and not only because it's their first to be released through Atlantic Records -- the major label the band flew Fat Cat's independent nest for in 2010. While the first two Frightened Rabbit albums grabbed the attention of the listener with urgency and honesty, forgetting the notion of polish along the way, the third went for less lyrical heartstring pulling and more grandiosity. Polish was most definitely in, but Scott Hutchison's loveable habit of airing his laundry in public seemed to have been put on hold.
On Frightened Rabbit’s 2008 album, The Midnight Organ Fight, frontman Scott Hutchison dramatically wailed, “I think I’ll save suicide for another day. ” He was like the drunk party pooper who points to an empty beer bottle and proclaims, “That’s how I feel inside. ” Fast-forward five years, and the band’s new album, Pedestrian Verse, begins with the self-effacing lyric, “I am that dickhead in the kitchen/Giving wine to your best girl’s glass.
“I’m here/Not heroic/But I try”. It’s with those words – on ‘Acts Of Man’, the opening track from their fourth album and major-label debut – that Selkirk quintet Frightened Rabbit confront the folly of putting your faith in rock stars to save your soul. Coldplay might claim they can “fix you”, but the Rabbit offer a more humble and honest alternative to Chris and co’s aspirational stadium-indie.
It’s a good time for Scottish folk. While artists like Alasdair Roberts and Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble have become dependable perennials, the past few years has seen a surge of new bands such as Admiral Fallow and The Twilight Sad winning hearts and minds with their own emotional take on folk-rock. Selkirk’s Frightened Rabbit have been the standard-bearers for this ‘movement’, rapidly acquiring a devoted following with their three albums to date.
Currently enjoying success in the US, Glasgow-based Frightened Rabbit are long overdue a breakthrough closer to home, and perhaps Pedestrian Verse will deliver it. Like some of their Scottish predecessors, from Big Country to Glasvegas, they strap ringing, resonant, skyscraping guitars to songs full of grit and gruel. The result is a collection of stirring, instant anthems to get fists pumping the air and swaying crowds singing along.
Like so many albums destined for underground classic status, Frightened Rabbit's second set The Midnight Organ Fight was wilfully idiosyncratic, painfully intimate, and the perfect soundtrack for the worst of times… just as they tip over to become the best of times, because all that going out, mixing drinks, and going home with the wrong people turned out to be a way of re-connecting, rather than hitting bottom. The Selkirk band's third album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, caught a wave of good will, but was generally felt to be the band’s Neon Bible: bigger but not better. We grudgingly accepted that Scott Hutchinson was ‘Not Miserable Now’ and the surprising number of us who thought that Midnight was 'our' album contented ourselves that the (five-piece) band had become tight, powerful, and well on their way to being everyone else’s favourite, too.
On its fourth studio album and first major label release, Scottish quintet Frightened Rabbit—comprised of Scott Hutchinson on vocals, Grant Hutchison on drums, Billy Kennedy and Andy Monaghan on guitars and bass and Gordon Skene on guitars and keyboards—offers 12 tracks that are much closer to a rock record than ever before. And like September’s strong State Hospital EP, Pedestrian Verse subsequently sounds more complete than the band’s previous efforts. The album is a little less jittery and a bit more streamlined.
Growing up in Selkirk, Scotland, Scott Hutchison was a shy boy. Left in a room with other kids, he would go quiet, and for this, the story goes, his mother called him "her frightened rabbit." Years later, less shy, he began to write songs and sing them live, then along the way he added friends to the act-- two guitarists, a bassist, his brother on the drums-- and with them made albums on which he howled and drank and fucked and fought, every chord seeming to push the memory of his skittish namesake further and further away. Yet the shy little boy remains.
Pedestrian Verse is an album made up of melodies, lyrics and verses that are completely, well, pedestrian. The 12 tracks follow a fairly straight line of Mumford & Sons-ian driving beats and jangly guitar picking (sans banjo) without any true spirit or energy. The album starts off with Scott Hutchison describing the failures of men within society (“Acts of Man”), including intense violence and rape.
The title of Frightened Rabbit’s fourth full-length release, Pedestrian Verse, is taken from a line in “State Hospital”, the eponymous track from their recent EP. The woeful protagonist, victim of misbegotten beginnings and unfulfilled sexual escapades (sound familiar?) is described as “a slipped disc in the spine of community / a bloody curse word in a pedestrian verse”; reduced to a mere profanity, she lacks even the dignity of being offensive in a noble setting. A “pedestrian verse” is an average one: normal, everyday, unremarkable.
Over their first three records, Frightened Rabbit, has made some big changes. We’ve all but forgotten about the angular, taut rock of Sing the Greys, since it was followed by the excellent songwriting and acoustic-driven, jangle-pop bent of The Midnight Organ Fight. But Winter of Mixed Drinks didn’t expand that so much as it crushed it under the foot of some serious maximalist rock moves.
Frightened Rabbit sit on the cusp of greatness. Their uncanny ability to blend infectious hooks and soaring, sing-along choruses with an introverted appeal has been at the foundation to their previous three albums and has them at the doorstep of the lesser-known musical dilemma of the difficult fourth album. Their response is ‘Pedestrian Verse’, a bold, complex dissection of the band’s melancholy strengths which leaves their back catalogue looking like a long prologue.It breaks from the Selkirk band’s previous work by indulging fully in the morose gloom their work has always been tinged with.
A sedate sequence of piano chords introduces the fourth studio album by Selkirk indie darlings Frightened Rabbit. With a familiar taste of the understatedly-depraved lyrical content that, from the beginning, made the band unique within their genre, Scott Hutchison’s first words on Pedestrian Verse – “I am that dickhead in the kitchen” – sees the singer staying true to his past convictions in subject matter. “In so-called living rooms, Scottish pastimes come to roost” he croons in the opening bars of ‘December’s Traditions’ – just in case you’d forgotten the ever-prominent nationality of the band you’re listening to.
Cometh the hour, cometh the bun-bun; whispers have been building for years that Frightened Rabbit's time must be nigh. Soon, the juncture when things finally align for their complex anthems, their tunes with teeth, brains and hearts and big soaring choruses your dad would like (OK, my dad, and yes, he is Scottish) must arrive. Seriously, though, this has to be it.
Tales that hone in on the personal to enthralling and humanising effect. Jude Clarke 2013 Its title deliberately chosen by the band’s gifted lyricist Scott Hutchinson to challenge himself, Frightened Rabbit’s fourth album, Pedestrian Verse, is full to bursting with words and descriptions that are anything but. After a diversion into more oblique themes and imagery on their previous release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, the band now return to the full power of their earliest work.