Album: Pedestrian Verse
Record Label: Warner Music UK
Scottish quintet revitalize the old formula of pessimism and life affirming tunes on album No. 4
Painting mental images with words, and especially bleak images at that, is something that Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchinson has always been consistently capable of doing. His sharp ear for pessimism and his self- destructive way with a pen and an acoustic guitar has seen him capture and shake hearts to their very core in equal measure, especially on the band's darkly humoured and often exceedingly bleak second album "The Midnight Organ Fight." After a bout of dallying in a more positive mind frame on 2010's "The Winter of Mixed Drinks" "Pedestrian Verse" sees Hutchinson return to said pessimism, with a few brief moments of bright relief breaking through the ever dark cloud.
"Pedstrian Verse" is a complete product of everything that it encompasses. The music and lyrics work in seamless conjunction to create atmospheres, mental landscapes and emotions, and they work wondrously. Opener "Acts of Man" is a slow burning kick off with a heavy handed piano melody leading the charge and chilling realism as Hutchinson sings "While a knight in shitty armour rips a drunk out of her dress/ one man tears into another, hiding a coward's heart in a lion's chest." It seems strangely prophetic.
The accumulation of imagery is most prominently set up early on with the track "Holy." Lyrically it sees Hutchinson firing a discerning dart at religious piety ("I don't mind being lonely... You're acting all holy") but the music conjures an upbeat Arcade Fire- esque rush which sounds both warm and distant, like sitting in a lonely house in front of a log fire whilst a blizzard blows its gale outside. "The Woodpile" sits at the more positive end of the spectrum, containing a chorus with lyrics and instrumentation which is nothing short of life affirming.
"State Hospital" is an incredibly bleak narrative about an unnamed female protagonist with Hutchinson singing "All thighs here and magpie handbags, Saturday's uniform for the fuck me parade." The epic, New Wave- esque walls of synth make the sound sound uncomfortably cold and grey, like a desperate drug addict lying naked on the floor in a furniture- less room.
They save perhaps the most important moment for last though. "The Oil Slick" starts off as a poppy bop along with some fantastic interplay between acoustic and electric guitars and bleak murmurings from Hutchinson about his inability to write a decent love song. However two minutes before the end, it sees the incorporation of gorgeously layered harmonies and soaring and fulfilling trumpets and rushes of synth as Hutchinson concludes, after all that, that "There is light, there's a tunnel to crawl through, there is love, misery loves you, still got hope so I think we'll be fine in these disastrous times." It's movingly powerful.
"Pedestrian Verse" is subtly majestic, almost always moving whether conveying positive or negative philosophies. It's well pieced together and hardly ever feels out of place, even if some of the moments are less effective and less tight than others. Hutchinson and his band have done misery proud, once again.
Key Track: The Oil Slick, State Hospital, Backyard Skulls
For fans of: The National, Arcade Fire