Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse (Atlantic)
April 15, 2013 by Amanda Mace
During their career so far, Glasgow-based quintet Frightened Rabbit have been rewarded with the recognition they deserve for their pleasing musical adventures. Lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and lyricist Scott Hutchison formed the band in 2003, and they have spent the years that have followed charming critics with cheering tunes and thoughtful lyrics. With a considerable catalogue of work behind them, Frightened Rabbit have been wise to continue to explore their talents, often through other projects such as We Were Promised Jetpacks and The Twilight Sad.
The band’s newest release, ‘Pedestrian Verse’, is an intriguing album from the beginning. Frightened Rabbit open their fourth studio recording with ‘Acts of Man’, a track so ostensibly timid that they almost live up to their name. Yet careful vocal delivery and an equally pacifying musical accompaniment belie a theme of dour frustration that eventually devours the listener. Beneath cautious keys is an exasperated anthem for the modern man, an admission of unfortunate shortfalls that is both honest and profound. Tail between his legs, Hutchinson sighs, “I am just like all the rest of them; sorry, selfish, trying to improve.” The band truly plays to their strengths here; ‘Acts of Man’ is one of the most appealing tracks on the album.
Another obvious standout is ‘Holy’, a rather bouncy number riddled with toe-twitching hooks and hole-related humour. Everything about the track is typical Frightened Rabbit; a mighty, unyielding riff, tender vocals, and an ever-prominent motif that is a curious mixture of anguish and doggedness. Teeming with religious imagery and sincerity, ‘Late March, Death March’ has a similar appeal. With relentless vigour the percussion drives listeners to an expertly crafted chorus, surely securing its place in the top tens of many a fan.
Easily the most fascinating on ‘Pedestrian Verse’ is ‘The Oil Slick’, a charismatic gem of track. As is the case with much of the band’s back catalogue, an undeniably impressive musical arrangement is somewhat overshadowed by Hutchinson’s lyrical and vocal prowess. Here, with lyrics that spark with frustration and self-deprecation, he is truly at his best.
And yet, as some tracks on ‘Pedestrian Verse’ demonstrate, the band should take care not to become reliant on strong lyrics to carry their tracks. The highlights of their fourth release, which also include the surprisingly delicate ‘Nitrous Gas’ and striking ‘State Hospital’ are most favourable because the group prove they have perfected the balance. As an outfit Frightened Rabbit are truly skilled in all departments. What is a little unsatisfying about ‘Pedestrian Verse’, therefore, is that too many of the tracks, such as ‘The Woodpile’ and ‘December Traditions’ lack focus musically.
That said, ‘Pedestrian Verse’ is certainly not a disappointing album. With several memorable tracks, Frightened Rabbit’s latest release is an album both the band themselves and their loyal fans can be proud of.