No offence meant, but Frightened Rabbit have never struck as a band destined for the big time. Maybe it is the fact that they’ve been at it an awful long time, their track record of small labels or even just the name – whatever, they seemed to be the archetypal indie band. Not even the grace and sweep of their last album for Fat Cat, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, suggested that they would be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Toni Braxton, James Blunt and The Drifters, yet here they come with their first long player for new label Atlantic – a sure reflection of their advanced status in the US. It’s a move that many have taken in the past, not always with aplomb, and the worry that this might be a step in the wrong direction looms large.
How could we have doubted them? Pedestrian Verses doesn’t exactly hit the ground running but ‘Acts Of Man’ is certainly one hell of a way to start. Shot through with self awareness, clever wordplay and culminating in a bruising guitar riff. It’s an opening of such assured confidence that you are immediately put at your ease and can delve into the delights that await. And what delights they are. Anyone familiar with the band’s more recent work won’t exactly be surprised by what’s on offer, yet that doesn’t mean Frightened Rabbit’s fourth record is anything less than brilliant (for the most part.) To call it a Scottish sounding record may be obvious given Scott Hutchinson’s distinctive vocal brogue but their roots run much deeper than that, giving the album a feeling of wide open space.
Those who might cling to the idea of them as their own little underground band may be disconcerted by the use of epic melody throughout but Hutchinson never plays it too straight, setting off the sweetness with a dark hearted lyrical sense. You’ll be whistling the likes ‘State Hospital’ and ‘Late March, Death March’ in no time but their true meaning will take a while to reveal itself. If there is a fault it’s that perhaps they stay stuck in the same gear for too much of the album (only a stripped down ‘Housing (Out)’ turns it down a touch) but this is a far cry from the kind of bland anthemic rock that you might have feared. ‘Oil Slick’ closes the album’s circle, as effecting and moving as its beginning. As with the ten year’s preceding, Frightened Rabbit have kept moving forward without losing sight of themselves. Long may it continue.