I don’t know very much about Frightened Rabbit. They’re a band that lots of my friends are into, and, I’m also told, a band that I should have loved for a long time. But for whatever reason, I’ve never been that interested. Therefore, I approached this review with next to no knowledge of what has come before it. Deliberately, I’ve done no research. I evaluate this record with fresh ears, and as a standalone body of work. Maybe this is better than anything Frightened Rabbit have done before. Maybe it’s not. The fact of the matter is that I don’t know – and I’m not going to pretend to.
What I do know is that this is a pretty special album. It ticks all of the boxes that should equate to mass-appeal with the kind of seamlessness you can usually only achieve with an overlocker: melodies that are always hummable, and sometimes flatout contagious; lyrics destined to be ghostwritten like gospel in the diaries of angsty teenagers the world over; and arrangements dense and clever enough to please music snobs of all ages, even the ones who wear scarves.
Tying it all together is singer and songwriter Scott Hutchison’s guttural, Scottish, howl – impassioned and standing-on-my-own-two-feet-for-the-first-time all at once. “I’ve got a voice like a gutter in a toxic storm,” he sings, on album closer The Oil Slick. He’s not kidding.
Given the componential way in which it’s delivered, it would be fair for you to assume that Pedestrian Verse is, in itself, also somewhat pedestrian. Yet, for all of its crowd-winning box-ticking, this isn’t a formulaic record. Sure – the comparisons are there to be made – the bombast of Manchester Orchestra, the twinkliness of Bombay Bicycle Club, and the emotional instability of Snow Patrol – and the truth of the matter is that Pedestrian Verse does showcase all of these sensibilities. But Frightened Rabbit do it better. They cover a lot of ground on this record (from the explosive introspection of Dead Now to the choral harmonies of Housing Out) and they cover all of it imaginatively.
I would like to think that this is the kind of album that other bands wish they had made. It’s complete from start to finish, sounding unyieldingly self-assured even when Hutchison doesn’t. The truth be told, he beats up on himself quite a bit over the course of the record. Less than two minutes into the album opener, Acts of Man, he’s already labelled himself a dickhead, and a knight in shitty armour. ‘I’m here,’ he croons sadly . ‘I’m not heroic. But I try’.
And, in my opinion, he succeeds. Buy this album.