Frightened Rabbit, bearded, Scottish indie folk rockers are back with their fourth album and major label debut. It sees them returning to the honesty and intimacy of their much loved second album, 2008’s Midnight Organ Fight. In their previous release, 2010’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks, some of this emotional poignancy was lost in the broader style. Pedestrian Verse does a good job of balancing the intimate and the anthemic; it is filled with songs that build slowly into huge, climactic choruses. It moves more towards the rock end of the indie folk spectrum, with fast paced drums and energetic guitars providing a base for the soaring, epic vocals. Occasionally this grandeur seems a bit forced. At times the album would benefit from being toned down slightly as the frequency of the massive choruses can sometimes serve to devalue them slightly.
Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
The album opens with ‘Acts of Man’, Scott Hutchison’s flute like falsetto proclaiming “I am that dickhead in the kitchen / giving wine to your best girl’s glass.” Frightened Rabbit’s immediate honesty is at once established, and the vocals soon become grittier to match the subject matter. The ambient keys give the song a melodic touch. ‘Holy’, with its driving guitars, has a sense of urgency which makes it sound somehow more authentic than the rest of the album. ‘The Woodpile’ is confident and manages to be uplifting and exciting, despite being essentially a song about helplessness.
The second half of the album takes a darker turn, and the moodiness of State Hospital morbid imagery of songs like ‘Dead Now’ hit hard. Frightened Rabbit are partial to a macabre lyric, and their brutal honesty and focus on misery are typical of their songwriting. However, none of the songs become a self-indulgent moan, instead they are well crafted and thought provoking. ‘Nitrous Gas’ provides a welcome break from the rather full-on anthemic rock of the rest of the album. It is slower and more subdued, but has a restrained, raw power that makes this a highlight for me. Hutchison’s vocals have a sense of cautiously releasing long pent up emotions, and the ever present eerie harmonies that permeate the entire record. Album closer ‘Oil Slick’ is especially haunting, and this time, the rousing chorus feels entirely appropriate.
In the album’s title, Frightened Rabbit appear to have set themselves a challenge, one that they have undoubtedly overcome. They are one of the increasingly small number of bands that have worked their way up over a number of albums, from a small, dedicated community of fans to airplay on the likes of Radio 1 and 6music and mainstream success. Whatever you say about it, Pedestrian Verse really is anything but.