Monday, 4 February 2013

Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

History seems determined to view 2010’s ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’ as a misstep after Frabbit’s wonderful breakthrough ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’, yet perhaps after listening to ‘Pedestrian Verse’ it may find itself rehabilitated as a necessary step on the road to greater things.

For one thing it’s impossible to deny that, self-deprecating title aside, ‘Pedestrian Verse’ is a BIG album, one with a scope far beyond anything the band have attempted before yet sacrificing little of their precious integrity and sense of heart in doing so. For this it owes a debt to its predecessor for severing a few ties with a well-intentioned fan base valuing impassioned obscurity over stretching their considerable songwriting abilities. An obvious comparison would be to Elbow circa ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ with whom they also share a similarly avuncular everyman frontman in the form of Scott Hutchison, yet there’s a melodic immediacy to the likes of ‘Backyard Skulls’ to rival titans like Coldplay or Snow Patrol.

Opener ‘Act of Man’s bleak lyrics take in amateur pornography and sick-flecked shoes, unhappy marriages and drunks scrapping in the streets ‘Not here, not here / heroic acts of man’ but it’s clear that though Frightened Rabbit are not here to romanticise, they’re not here to damn either and when they strike a skyscraping chord after three minutes and Hutchison finally addresses the object of his desires directly, open about his flaws but promising that he’s willing to try, you glimpse a beating heart beneath more powerful than a million schmaltzy ballads.

The chugging anti-prayer ‘Holy’ thunders like Arcade Fire at their most consumed by fire and brimstone, twisting the language of ‘salvation and deliverance’ into a blistering attack on sanctimony ‘Stop acting so holy / I’m all full of holes’. Lead single ‘The Woodpile’ is unafraid to put Hutchison’s celtic burr front and centre and it’s more than justified by their most unashamedly full-throated chorus ‘Would you come back to my corner? / Spent too long alone tonight / Would you come brighten my corner? / Set a torch to the woodpile.’ It’s a stirring fists in the air moment with a solo reminiscent of Doves chugging anthemics.Bone-shaking drums continue the theme of the conflict between religion, identity and morality on ‘Late March, Death March’ whilst the title track of last year’s ‘State Hospital’ EP makes a welcome return, plumbing new depths of lyrical miserabilism in its tale of a woman ‘born into a grave’.

A band whose best known chorus runs ‘You’re the shit and I’m knee-deep in it’ have always had the knack of combining the crude with the heartfelt, the crushingly personal with the stirringly grandiose and with this record they’ve merely transferred these skills to the largest canvas possible. A fantastic return to form; it’s clear Frightened Rabbit are far from pedestrian. They just know you see far more when you take the scenic route.


Max Sefton

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