Frightened Rabbit is a hard band not to like. Like an irony-free U2, before Bono put on the shades, they're perfectly guileless, sincere in their desire to convey the pain of lost love and isolation. On their third album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks
, these Scottish boys proudly stick out like a sore thumb. Armed with guitars, bass and drums, they buck the current trend toward overly orchestrated chamber pop, bombastic neo-prog and cut-up glo-fi.
On 2008's acclaimed The Midnight Organ Fight
, the Rabbits had a folkier sound and their lyrics were almost exclusively about heartbreak. With new titles like "Not Miserable" and "Living In Colour," and a more driving, modern rock feel, it's apparent that although some pain remains, singer/songwriter Scot Hutchison has done some healing since then. The new album's best song by far, "Swim Until You Can't See Land," is an exhortation to move on, even if you don't exactly know where you're going. "Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?" he challenges. As any man who has ever felt like a bag of sand can attest, these inspirational tunes are helpful motivators, if only to get you to spend five more minutes on the treadmill. The Rabbits anthems, unlike U2's or Big Country, the flash in the pan 80's band they sometimes recall, are personal, not universal. Although you can practically taste the sea air of the small, coastal village of Crail, Fife, where this album was written, lyrically, their brand of Scot-rock leans more towards the men's group than the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. "I have fallen in the forest, did you hear me?" Hutchison asks, in "The Loneliness and the Scream," substituting himself for a tree. Hutchison's pronounced Scottish brogue also lightens whatever epic sweep might have emerged.
Producer Pete Katis favors thick, guitar driven atmospherics, which seem counter-intuitive to the strengths of the band. I would've gladly sacrificed mood pieces like "The Wrestle," for a few more catchy pop tunes like "Nothing Like You." Perhaps this is their concession to current experimental trends, or maybe they just ran out of great songs and Katis had to vamp. In any case, the sonic sludge is an ill fit for the Rabbits, sounding forced, and worse, uninteresting.
Regardless, you can't help but root for a band like Frightened Rabbit. They're like David staring down Goliath with nothing but a slingshot. -Dan Siegler
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MP3:"Swim Until You Can't See Land" - The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
Frightened Rabbit on Myspace