Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse | Album Review | By Volume

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Frightened Rabbit

Pedestrian Verse

“There is light, but there’s a tunnel to crawl through; there is love, but it’s misery that loves you.”

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Author: on May 21, 2013
8.0
Atlantic
February 4, 2013

The struggle and the grinding gears of Midnight Organ Fight happened inside Scott Hutchison’s broken-up, time-travelling mind; on The Winter of Mixed Drinks, Frightened Rabbit took the war outside, to battle with the currents and the elements. With Pedestrian Verse, the band’s clenched fists find themselves beneath grey Scottish skies, grasping for slender strings of honour and hope in a swamp of resignation, detachment and human flaws. Hutchison doesn’t elevate himself above it, and the music is dense here; from a band that once sang, “You’re the shit, and I’m knee deep in it,” consider this an attempt to escape the quicksand.

It’s remarkable how Pedestrian Verse seems to sit knowingly alongside the band’s previous two albums, despite sharing none of the themes or, in many ways, even aesthetics. Chalk it up to Hutchison’s lyrical bite, if you will – his scratchy, bold metaphors are certainly a distinct feature of Frightened Rabbit’s songwriting – but there’s also enough energy here, musically, to see why the raw desperation of Midnight Organ Fight may find itself within the mirror’s frame. There is less of a pace about Verse than that record, but no less urgency to make the point; “Dead Now” is every bit as tense an affair as “The Modern Leper”, its jarring rhythm resolving only after a restless guitar solo, and slipping beautifully into the record’s most quotable line.

“Will you love me in spite of all these ticks and inconsistencies? There is something wrong with me.” If we find a grain of truth in this line, we know why, because Frightened Rabbit have been a band aware of, and celebratory of, their imperfections for a good 5 years now. They spin themselves into something endearing at every juncture; “December’s Traditions” begins confusingly but climaxes with a gusto that relies on the bewilderment, while “Nitrous Gas”‘ chorus refuses to stay predictable even as you hear it a hundredth time. The textures on Pedestrian Verse may very well tend away from the band’s form of old, but they don’t overrise it. The aforementioned “Nitrous Gas” sounds nothing like “Poke” but is beautiful in its own way, and “Backyard Skulls”‘ electronics are likely to take those that remember “Old Old Fashioned” by only minor surprise.

But despite growing pains – this record, for all its brilliance, still harbours a cut or two that feel rushed or over-produced – Pedestrian Verse has its heart in the right place. Not just that, though – it has its guts in the right place, too. The closer, “The Oil Slick”, is a clever rumination on self-doubt but in its final stages morphs itself into a stunning anthem, with Hutchison finding optimism even inside the “toxic storm”. Without the relationship narrative of their last two albums, Frightened Rabbit turn their fight towards the more existential enemies of apathy, immorality and just being plain beaten-down. “Blood is thicker than concrete”, cries lead single “State Hospital”. “But if blood is thicker than concrete, all is not lost,” it retorts. Frightened Rabbit’s latest outing is a struggle for exactly that kind of humour, and a success in every way.

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