Album Review: Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
OverviewGenre: Indie Rock
Pros:Yet again the lyrics are sublime, and the music begs for stadium audiences.
Cons:This writer can't think of any. Maybe you just hate swelling melody and poetry?
Once again, Frightened Rabbit have given us an album that’s easy to listen to, and yet, as is the beauty with all harsh truths, occasionally difficult to hear.
There’s no pleasing some people. Four albums in, Frightened Rabbit appear to have upset a certain proportion of their fanbase by becoming ever more accessible. It’s a trend that will surprise no one familiar with modern music and its enthusiasts: great band grows in stature, refines their sound, gains new fans, and in so doing are accused of eroding whatever idiosyncrasy endeared them to people in the first place. The law of diminishing returns, perhaps.
In the strange position of doing considerably better stateside than they do on their own home turf, Frightened Rabbit have inadvertently built a fanbase as defined by defiance as they are by love of the band’s sound. Why aren’t Frightened Rabbit bigger than Mumford and Sons when they’re considerably smarter? Why aren’t they as revered as The National when they’re so much more comprehensible? As the release date for Pedestrian Verse neared, there came louder and louder gripes from longtime devotees of the Scottish band’s particular brand of stadium poetry: could Frightened Rabbit have purposefully Snow Patrolled themselves? Were they… selling out?
Well, worrywarts, the short answer is no, Frightened Rabbit are not selling out. There’s precious little between Pedestrian Verse and The Winter Of Mixed Drinks (its nearest predecessor) in terms of intent, or sound. Frightened Rabbit are as subtle a pedlar of literary brilliance as you can get in the music world – their shtick is stunning wordplay and cutting honesty, packaged with anthemic grandeur, and Pedestrian Verse is a masterclass. From album opener ‘Acts Of Man’ to finale ‘The Oil Slick’, you get roaralong choruses and broad musical strokes made to be shared, alongside fiendishly clever and yet disarmingly candid lyrics that beg to be analysed and appropriated as personal religion.
In fact, it’s no easy task to pick out highlights; there is something pleasantly uniform about Pedestrian Verse, and there are no weak moments. Whether Scott is singing about something deeply personal (‘The dark words pouring from my throat / sound like an oil slick coating the wings we’ve grown’ in ‘The Oil Slick’) or going all-out to break the hearts of a country (‘… who just lays in a submissive position / ‘neath the national weight and the slow arc of a fist’ in first single State Hospital, which came in at Number 4 in Ramp.ie’s Songs of 2012), this is music big enough to sing along to, no matter how raw the subject matter, universal truths coated in the language of confession. There is certainly nothing pedestrian about it, incidentally.
This is stuff that belongs as much on radio as it does on the headphones of the devoted select. Here’s hoping that Pedestrian Verse’s unapologetically big sound finally brings Frightened Rabbit into the festival-headlining space occupied by lesser bands, despite established fans’ desire to hoard them as modern rock’s best-kept secret.