sun 20/04/2014

CD: Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse | New music reviews, news & interviews

CD: Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

Local heroes' major label debut hides its darkness under upbeat tunes

Unsanitised: Frightened Rabbit's fourth album is one of their finest

In theory, it’s close to impossible to achieve some semblance of mainstream success without being decried as a sellout by at least a proportion of your fanbase. Yet I don’t think there was a Scottish indie music fan who greeted this week's news that Frightened Rabbit had scored a Top 10 chart place for their major-label debut without a mixture of pride and delight.

It helps of course that on Pedestrian Verse, Selkirk’s most famous sons have stripped back the slight gloss of over-production that threatened to overwhelm 2010’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks. This fourth album sees Scott Hutchison’s vocals restored to pride of place in the mix, albeit this time with songwriting duties shared the lyrics he sings are hardly his alone. The good news for fans of the band’s characteristically blunt, evocative words is that it seems misery, depression and heartbreak were never Hutchison’s remit alone (it’s bad news for the band members, I would assume).

Oh but that’s the sort of crass, black humour you’ve always been likely to find underneath Frightened Rabbit’s sprightly melodies, and that’s the thing it would have been saddest to see sanitised under the umbrella of a major label. Not so - Hutchison has said in interviews that the impact of a relationship break-up seeped its way into some of the songs much as it did on their breakthrough record The Midnight Organ Fight, and it’s apparent from the subject matter. Loneliness (“Holy”), social anxiety (“The Woodpile”) and resignation (“Backyard Skulls”) are all well-represented, while “State Hospital” spins an evocative fiction around a troubled female protagonist.

Set to the backdrop of some of the brightest, most upbeat music that the band has ever produced (on “Housing (In)”, “Oil Slick” and album standout “Late March, Death March” in particular), Pedestrian Verse keeps its considerable darkness well hidden. To existing fans the album will rank among the band’s best work, but as a major-label debut it’s a masterstroke. You won’t realise why until you’re singing along.

Listen to "State Hospital":


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