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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews

8.7

Frightened Rabbit
Pedestrian Verse

Take this one with a grain of salt or two fingers of single malt or whatever method you choose to assist the digestion of non-subjectivity. Some of us are far too indebted now. Because we were there when Scott Hutchison first invited everyone in to his self-enclosed, grey world, covering up his heartache, shyness and insecurities with a beautiful, jangly pop mess. Stood by his side as his delivery method was cleansed, suckered in further as he became sidetracked and transformed into a bitter and jaded ex-lover, wrestled with the idea of becoming a rock-star and then settled into the role of diary-writer and quiet observer.

Four albums in and this is where we are. Digesting everything with enthusiasm, our tiny minds hardly able to comprehend a world where Frightened Rabbit miss the mark. In turn, we sacrifice more time searching for significance in every line, waiting for every detail to find it's place. We also let more things slide, overlooking the repeated fragments — the melody of Housing (Out) is merely a reprised version of Housing (In) — as well as resisting the temptation to condemn the seemingly purposeful stylistic changes — the tight and polished Danger Mouse vs Black Keys characteristic of The Oil Slick.

Pedestrian Verse is the band's long-overdue major label debut. The deserved "cash-in" of sorts, although, for the most part, it seems unaffected by the transitional back-room shift. Sure, there's a notable increase of variety, both in subject matter and compositional approach, as well as a slight boost in determination and a few more tiny production details around the edges, but the alterations are hardly dramatic enough to cause concern. Pedestrian Verse still snugly occupies it's position in the band's timeline, mostly attributable to the fact the key aspect of their music remains as strong as ever — Scott Hutchison's remarkable songwriting.

Hutchison's lyrics are powered by their clarity. Often gut-punchingly direct, his well-managed quips punctuate each song's purpose. Whether that's delivered in a self-deprecating tone ("I'm dead now, can you hear the relief"), as a dramatised recreated scene ("Can we just get home, sleep this off, Throw some sorry's and then, do it all again") or merely as a well-articulated, social observation ("Saturday's uniform for the 'fuck me' parade"). His open, laid-bare approach remains remarkably transfixing and, regardless of the musical wrapping that encloses each line, his lyrics continue to be the band's most powerful asset.

That said, there still remains an element of evolution. Most notably on Holy, where Hutchison's own feelings become tangled amidst issues of greater significance. He begins by condemning religious advocacy — not an unfamiliar theme ("Jesus is just a Spanish boy's name") — before internalising the focus, turning the sword on himself, stating that he's "too far gone" and that "they" shouldn't waste their energy trying to save him. Similarly, there remains a conscious effort to muddle the tone and purpose. Album highlight, State Hospital, is initially crafted as a poetic recall of a nameless, tragic existence, before dragging the mood out of the doldrums, ending the tale of despair with a tiny flicker of hope — "all is not lost".

Of course, many of these details remain disclosed, often buried under the more immediately recognisable (for lack of a better expression "pop") qualities. But these small snippets of life, perfectly encapsulated in gruff poetic phrases, remain the distinctive quality of Frightened Rabbit, not just now, but since the very beginning. And we're back to square one, as therein lies the primary issue. While this record is marginally more direct and forthright than it's predecessors, it still needs time. Hours waiting for the comforting masquerade, this pop outer-shell, to allow the underlying triumphant and emotive moments to seep through. Days spent reciting singular lines that have soaked deep into our memory glands. And yet I can't help but feel that without a profound attachment to their history — or an obsessive dedication — there's little hope that Frightened Rabbit have the necessary exhibitionistic qualities to attract the attention they truly deserve.

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Frightened Rabbit

 

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