Frightened Rabbit – Backyard Skulls EP (Atlantic)
May 8, 2013 by Alex Zinovieff
Frightened Rabbit fans are being spoiled at the moment. The band has just finished a national tour in which they played to over 15,000 people. They released their stonkingly good fourth album, Pedestrian Verse, in February and now they have decided to put out Backyard Skulls EP.
An EP can give a level of freedom that an album doesn’t allow. There isn’t as much pressure to produce a well-rounded piece of work and it gives an opportunity to release alternative versions of songs, ones that didn’t make the cut and those that wouldn’t fit into the album mold.
It opens with the title track of the EP – ‘Backyard Skulls’. This song is an interesting combination of an ultra bleak subject matter with quite an upbeat musical accompaniment. Lead singer Scott Hutchinson said about the track, ‘This song takes the idea of skeletons in the closet a step further. It was inspired by a novel by the Scottish writer Chris Brookmyre, in which bodies are discovered using aerial photography. The song itself is one of the starkest contrasts between bright pop and darkness that we’ve ever written.’ The product, perversely, is a brilliant rock song with a catchy and powerful sing-along chorus.
This is followed by an acoustic version of ‘The Woodpile’ – the first single from Pedestrian Verse. I was struck by the uncompromising weight and power of the original version of this song and I’m pleased to say that it also works brilliantly without the distortion and drums.
Next is a stripped down version of ‘Holy’. It exposes a tenderness to the song that doesn’t quite make it through the more driven album version. It also gives greater emphasis to Hutchinson’s lyrics.
The EP closes with a live version of ‘Acts Of Man’. It is a disillusioned ode to the shortcomings of modern society and describes it with a visualness that makes you wince. It is a triumphantly rambunctious rendition of the song and hits a chaotic frenzy in the end.
I spent a while pondering why the band had released this EP. After a few listens I have decided that it feels like an extended single. It doesn’t introduce any new material – instead it promotes one of the album tracks alongside a few alternative versions of songs from the same record. This doesn’t diminish the artistic validity of it at all.
Frightened Rabbit are one of Scotland’s most interesting and exciting bands and this record feels like a small step towards their fleshy underbelly. It is not as shielded by studio retakes or bolstered by electric guitars. It highlights the depth of musical and lyrical composition and also the strength of the bands performance.