Words by Tom Johnson
I owe Frightened Rabbit an apology. Their break-through, and ‘break-up’, record – 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight – went so
imperfectly hand-in-hand with my own life-changing shift from relationship safety in to the wide-eyed glare of real life, that ever since then, as success, wider recognition and steadier footing has been achieved, I think I’ve been expecting them to fail. Which is bizarre given that I’ve loved every step of their journey so far.
Both before and after that brief alignment of their work and my own strife, I’ve sat in my room with their lyrics and sweated alongside them at increasingly larger shows. I’ve even got a signed drumstick somewhere, ffs. Yet, for some reason, I’ve expected them to fuck up. Signing to Atlantic Records was a clear and defined marker point in the bands shift from a potty-mouthed, earnest guitar band into a proper, bonafide pop group and maybe that’s where my fear lay? That by dipping a toe in to the mainstream they would somehow dilute their quality and tamper their judgement. Let’s be honest; we’ve seen it before and I’m sure we’ll see the same again. But even as I type that I know it’s not the reason. Maybe it’s just that Scott’s voice itself is such a stark reminder of a time when their music was mine – this guy fucking knows man! – a time when life felt both terrifying and completely my own for the first time. If they mess it all up now, where does that leave me, hey?
The record opens with the line “I’m that dickhead in the kitchen…” and hearing it is akin to a weight falling from my shoulders. Of course they haven’t dumbed themselves down! Of course they haven’t sold-out! This is Frightened Rabbit you fool.
There has undoubtedly been a shift in their sound from their earlier work to that which is present on Pedestrian Verse. Much of the ambiguity that was prevalent on Sing The Greys, and Organ Fight to some extent, isn’t really here anymore. Scott Hutchison has truly found his feet as a song-writer who has the ability to write genuinely affecting, sing-a-long choruses; and with a fully formed band behind him that is where they now excel. Holy, latest single The Woodpile and Late March, Death March stamp their authority all over the first half of the record with crashing drums, pounding keys and huge choruses. While Backyard Skulls finds the band dipping into synths for the first time; a rippling current of playful noise creeps in and out of the entire track.
As far as lyrical content is concerned, the weight of Scott’s words still tip heavily towards relationships and the effect they have on our place in the world, but here, more so than ever before, they’re seen through the eyes of other characters rather than just his own. More than anything though Pedestrian Verse appears to be a reflection on the last few years; an acceptance that things were fucked up, that mistakes were made, but that life goes on regardless. “There is something wrong with me, and it reads nothing like poetry, so will you love me in-spite of these ticks and inconsistencies?” he sings on Dead Now; and boy oh boy, I’m standing up and singing those words alongside him.
Frightened Rabbit aren’t reinventing the wheel here – they’re not even really reinventing their own wheel – but Pedestrian Verse is still a thoroughly engaging and compelling listen, chiefly because its the fruition of many years of hard work and hard times, but also because it has its own voice, and that’s a voice that is, and always was, full of fire, passion and honesty.
On a personal note, and in-spite of of my own clownish doubts, it reaffirms my belief that a bunch of sweaty, hairy men bashing guitars and pouring their hearts out actually, genuinely, means something; and I think that was all I needed to know. Sorry chaps, as you were.
Pedestrian Verse is released on February 4th. Pre-order it here.
Frightened Rabbit tour from February 8th.
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