Despite having previously released three well-received albums, Pedestrian Verse might just be the most important record of Frightened Rabbit’s career. Marking their transition from indie label FatCat to major players Atlantic, it’s a bold and distinctive record that plays with the formula and oozes confidence.
Pedestrian Verse presents an altogether heavier brand of alt-folk than we’ve experienced with Frightened Rabbit before: at times verging on straight-up indie rock, it’s a clever choice of direction that really pays off; it’s similar enough to keep fans happy, but different enough to avoid sounding repetitive. Gone is the extravagant flamboyance of 2010’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks, and in its place is a newfound beefiness; a real driving force. Perhaps this comes from the group’s new approach to writing: whereas before vocalist Scott Hutchinson would bring songs to the studio where they would be developed during recording sessions, this time around the tracks were formed by the entire band and worked on whilst on tour.
Opening with a stark piano melody, Acts of Man introduces the listener to Frightened Rabbit 2.0, as Hutchinson’s delicate falsetto filters in along with bare guitars and echoing drums. The alt-folk elements that their legions of fans fell in love with are all still there, but they’re accompanied by a sense of diversification that’s carried on into Backyard Skulls, which even features a swirling synth line lurking beneath the surface.
The stomp-along fun of Holy provides an early album highlight, sounding a bit like a combination of old school Frightened Rabbit and Arcade Fire. This is no bad thing: it’s catchy, melodic and oh so memorable. The whistly Late March, Death March follows just a couple of songs later, showcasing a more familiar indie-folk sound that harks back to the bands first album, and fitting in nicely alongside the harder new material.
Previous single State Hospital appears near the end of the album, following a series of solid tracks including December’s Traditions and Housing (In). It’s a testament to the band that there are really no bad songs on this record: from the very first notes to the very last, it’s an engaging and enjoyable listen. Closer The Oil Slick leaves the album on a high, building to a rousing crescendo.
With the backing of a major label, Frightened Rabbit have the potential to go far. Their astute lyrics and ear for a good melody stand them in good stead, and if they continue in the vein of Pedestrian Verse they can only go on to get bigger and bigger.
Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit is out via Atlantic Records on 4th February 2013.