Frightened Rabbit’s fourth LP, the first since the group signed for Atlantic Records, was always likely to signal a shift in the band’s approach to their releases. Taking inspiration from front man Scott Hutchinson’s column in Q magazine, Impact decided that the only way to review this album would be with a nice dram of whiskey. Sadly, the Sainsbury’s down the road only stocked Jack Daniels, so that had to suffice…
1. Acts of Man
The first song of Pedestrian Verse is fairly, well, pedestrian. As ever, it’s Hutchinson’s voice that dominates the track, which sounds eerily akin to something that famous Scottish band from Oxford, Stornaway, might write. Although a decent song, there is scope for it to be a lot tighter. It builds well but fizzles away disappointingly at the end without having really gone anywhere.
2. Backyard Skulls
This track is a lot livelier. There are hints of Elbow’s ‘Neat Little Rows’, but this is much catchier. Not a bad song and has a good sing-a-long vibe, though the pop-punk bridge gave me uncomfortable visions of Fall Out Boy.
‘Holy’ is very rock-based for Frightened Rabbit – the track feels like it was homage to Arcade Fire. The quick-fire delivery of the verses would have been more effective but for the warble at the end of each line. If Hutchinson cut his lines a bit sooner this would have all the hallmarks of a great song. Otherwise snappy and punctual, this is one of the stronger songs on the album.
4. The Woodpile
The introduction sounds like Glasvegas but with the fundamental advantage of being markedly less shit. Although one of the slower tracks on this release, it doesn’t lag in the same way that ‘Acts of Man’ did. The solo could have been more adventurous, but overall the bigger sound that Frightened Rabbit seem to be angling towards is pulled off well here.
5. Late March Death March
Although the start of this track is strikingly similar (almost identical, in fact) to ‘The Bones of You’ by Elbow, this is a track that would certainly go down well live. The erratic drumbeat keeps the song moving forwards and, although it could be a minute shorter, this is a good solid track.
6. December’s Traditions
With its focus right back on the lyrics, this is much more like the Frightened Rabbit of previous releases. It feels a bit out of place and wimpy on this release – unfortunately it has the feeling of something that The Vaccines shat out on a rainy day. This would have been stronger as a quiet, haunting interlude track, but the drumbeat is entirely out of place. Unnecessary additions make this the most disappointing track on the album.
7. Housing (In)
Although quick, this track is all likeable riffs and strong beats – it sounds a bit like ‘Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’. ‘Housing (In)’ is a brief, catchy assault of music and is all the better for it.
8. Dead Now
For Frightened Rabbit, ‘Dead Now’ contains distinctly poor lyrics. There is nothing dislikable about the track; it’s just a bit dull. Having taken two years to write an album, it seems odd that this made the cut. A very good guitar solo tries to salvage the track, but it comes in too late to save it.
9. State Hospital
A heavily vocal-based introduction followed by slowly added instrumentation is a formula that suits Frightened Rabbit when they pull it off, as they do here with aplomb. A hint of Editors in the drumming, the tinkly piano that comes in halfway through is both unexpected and delightful. ‘State Hospital’ rebuilds nicely and a shares lot with the Maccabees ‘Grew up at Midnight’ in how it develops throughout the song. Almost certainly the standout track on the album.
10. Nitrous Gas
Cheerful titles on this LP, no? A lovely riff starts this track off, Though it was hard to resist singing Tenacious D’s ‘Wonderboy’ along to it. Frightened Rabbit almost got cheerful with us for a second; thankfully they remain wonderfully melancholic. This is the treatment that they should have given to ‘December’s Traditions’. They might be going for a bigger sound but it is this track, arguably closer to their older stuff, which has a more anthemic touch to it. Great stuff.
11. Housing (Out)
With this ‘reprise’, you can’t help but feel that they wrote two songs and ran out of choruses. It’s not bad, but pales in comparison to Housing (In). Another unnecessary appendage to the album.
12. The Oil Slick
This just feels a bit disjointed overall. Although the verses are fairly good, there is little to love in this track – it feels throughout like it should be going somewhere and never quite manages it. The birdsong to conclude the album feels a bit twee and somewhat jaded, after all, Radiohead did this two years ago on The King of Limbs.
Frightened Rabbit took a risk when they embraced a bigger sound on this album and at times, when they get a track right, it feels like the sound they were born to create. Moments of it are the best they’ve done so far, but it’s very bipolar – some of it simply doesn’t work. Though Pedestrian Verse feels like an experiment, it is an interesting release and worth a listen, particularly for ‘Nitrous Gas’ and ‘State Hospital’.
Ben McCabe & Liam Coleman
…Ben has been listening to ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ by Rick Astley
…Liam has been listening to ‘Radioaktivität’ by Kraftwerk