Frightened Rabbit have until now been relatively unknown in Britain, despite Pedestrian Verse being their fourth studio album. This is somewhat surprising given the success of fellow countrymen Biffy Clyro to whom they will doubtlessly draw some comparisons to, even if the similarities aren’t as prominent as some critics would have you believe. What makes their obscurity over here all the more confusing is their popularity across the pond, regularly playing to American audiences in the thousands. Breaking America is usually a test of a bands staying power. As it happens, however, it’s fallen to Pedestrian Verse to be the album that breaks Britain, hopefully transporting them from relative obscurity in to the mainstream.
The first two tracks on the album ‘Acts of Man’ and ‘Backyard Skulls’ don’t immediately grab your attention in the way that most openers do. Instead, what they do is gently ease you in to Pedestrian Verse slowly and subtly before track 3 ‘Holy’ kicks in. As heavy as it is melodic, ‘Holy’ is a song that’s made for the larger size transatlantic venues to which the band have become accustomed and it’s this point the album really comes in to it’s own and takes everything that comes thereafter in it’s stride.
The album’s lyricism has been described as “painfully honest” and despite an intended move away from personal relationships as a lyrical topic, a bad break-up during the writing of Pedestrian Verse saw Nick Hutchison fall back in to his preferred lexicon, something established fans of the band will no doubt thank him for. This candidness is perhaps most prominent on the Biffy-esque ‘Late March, Death March’ which is as uplifting as songs come contrary to the subject matter. ‘Dead Now’ is a break from the anthemic, at least at first. Relying on a chorus of ‘oohs’ to carry the song for the first three minutes gives the track an overall stripped down feel that slowly but surely builds to a cacophonous climax. Unfortunately the levels in this song are slightly out, leaving Hutchison’s lyrics occasionally indiscernible. Fortunately the production is greatly improved on the track that follows. ‘State Hospital’ contains the lyric from which the album takes it’s name, and features an incredibly produced drum sound that really drives the first half of the song home. Here we see some fantastic lyrical musings on Hutchinson’s part. The song is both confident and fraught, suggesting an underlying sense of personal conflict behind his song writing.
The fourth track and second single released from the album is ‘The Woodpile’. Currently doing the rounds on national radio; this track has no doubt contributed to the misconception that Frightened Rabbit are “just another Biffy Clyro”. The dynamic between the verses and chorus is something seriously impressive and it’s no surprise they chose to release this as a single. The 90 seconds or so are some of the best moments of the album in terms of the instrumentation cementing this as one of the strongest tracks included.Those of you who buy the deluxe edition of Pedestrian Verse will be treated to an additional three tracks in the form of ‘If You Were Me’, ‘Snow Still Melting’ and ‘Escape Route‘. ‘If You Were Me’ is quite possibly the strongest song on the album (if you can consider bonus tracks album tracks). An elegant finger-picked guitar beautifully opens a song in which the lyrics are obviously the focal point. The heartbroken rhetoric that surrounds the song leaves Hutchinson sounding particularly vulnerable and the chorus is loaded with emotion that bubbles below the surface, as if threatening to break forth at any moment even though it never quite does. The conscious decision to keep this track acoustic and stop it from straying in to the anthemic territory that perpetuates the rest of the album that really makes this song stand head and shoulders above the rest.
As I mentioned earlier, there are people who will feel that drawing comparisons with fellow Scotsmen Biffy Clyro is justifiable given their shared heritage. However, while there are occasional moments that sound somewhat Biffy-like, that can be attributed almost entirely to the anthemic nature of post-Puzzle Biffy Clyro and pretty much the entire of Pedestrian Verse. The fact of the matter is, while the aforementioned Biffy Clyro harbour a distinct math-rock aesthetic that’s present throughout their entire back catalogue, Frightened Rabbit are far less angular in their delivery. Instead of aiming for abrasion, their songs are delicate and subtly crafted. Although the majority of the songs are huge sounding, they gently wash over you in a way that politely asks for your attention as opposed to kicking you in the ribs and stealing it from you.
There’s only so much room for stadium filling songs with huge choruses before it starts to wear a little thin. Frightened Rabbit have tried to punctuate what is otherwise a massive album with occasional moments of delicate nuance. Unfortunately these moments are too sporadic to really have an effect and as a result the massive sounds they create fall somewhat short . Of course that doesn’t mean that Pedestrian Verse is a bad album; far from it. It’s just so much exposure inevitably leads to a kind of detraction of impact. Even so, with song writing as strong as this, for the most part, it’s guaranteed to win people over and it’s taken as given that some of these songs will become highlights of this summer’s festival circuit.