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 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. The omission of this key ingredient on The Winter of Mixed Drinks made for a decrease in longevity when compared with fan favorite The Midnight Organ Fight. For Pedestrian Verse, the singer/guitarist welcomed the rest of the band into the writing process for the first time to share the burden. Producer Leo Abrahams would be a key ally too, reigning in their ideas to help create the dynamics that would give each song the space to rise and fall when necessary. The resulting record sounds as good as 2010's The Winter of Mixed Drinks, yet pleasingly is also as lyrically affecting as their earlier work, if a little less bloodied and bruised. Managing to be musically uplifting within the most downtrodden scenarios, Frightened Rabbit's ability to build imagery you can almost reach out and touch is as strong as ever on Pedestrian Verse. On "Backyard Skulls," you are pulled close to be told "All our secrets are smothered in dirt/Underneath paving stones/Lying waiting to be told," a metaphor that Scott Hutchison's Scottish tone somehow makes sound literal in the way it has done since 2006's Sing the Greys. Elsewhere, the driving, joyous "Holy" is a contender for the best song Arcade Fire never wrote, while "State Hospital" is the only track from 2012's EP of the same name that makes the cut. It's one of the highlights here, boasting a great deal of space between instruments, allowing the refrain ("Her heart beats like a breezeblock thrown down the stairs/Her blood is thicker than concrete/Forced to be brave/She was born into a grave") to arrive with maximum impact, the guitars building among the reverb-drenched drums, with Hutchison at his poetic best. Although produced like you'd expect a major-label album to be, there is nothing to suggest that Pedestrian Verse wouldn't sound just as good in lo-fi surroundings. The songwriting is the driving force behind the album, and any reservations about whether or not Frightened Rabbit would transform into radio-friendly M.O.R. are swept away, although "Dead Now" is a rare moment that passes by without much incident. As the playful guitars of superb closer "The Oil Slick" gradually mold into something slightly darker, along with the typically poignant "We've still got hope so I think we'll be fine/In these disastrous times," there is a sense that the band is more at ease than ever, and sounding anything but pedestrian for it. ~ Daniel Clancy, Rovi