I remember seeing Frightened Rabbit at Lollapalooza in 2010. They played the Grove Stage on the northwest side of Grant Park. It’s probably the most intimate setting summer megafest, shaded by a stand of trees on all sides, with the backdrop of the windy city behind it, the Grove Stage is a mildly temperate oasis in the midst of the sweaty hot mess that is Chicago in early August.
Frightened Rabbit were fresh off the release of their sophomore effort, The Winter of Mixed Drinks (QRO review) and were finishing up what was surely a whirlwind of a promo tour. If the Scottish boys were at all fazed by the melting Midwest humidity, they didn’t let on, as their performance was filled with the kind of energy and gusto that comes from a regular consumption of Bruichladdich and some genuine music making ability. I remember the droves of sweat pouring from the brow of drummer Grant Hutchinson, and the intensity with which his brother and frontman Scott delivered his heart and soul through his thick Scottish brogue.
It was a muscular performance, and the group’s latest album Pedestrian Verse is a muscular album. It showcases some stylistic agility whilst maintaining the honest, cutting, often self-deprecating songwriting prowess of Scott Hutchinson.
The album commands more than one listen, and it commands that you actually listen to it. Blame the thick brogue, or blame the distractingly soaring choruses, but it’s easy to listen through the album and not hear its intricacy and poetry. Scott Hutchinson is a truly powerful songwriter with a knack for clever wordplay and intimate observation.
The contrast between the image we paint for ourselves and the darkness that image obscures pervades the album. From the knight in shitty armour mentioned in the opener, “Acts of Man”, to the Hutchinson’s cry of “spare me the brimstone” on “Holy”, it’s clear that Hutchinson and his demons have no time for those who claim to be demon-less.
But it’s not all darkness and unavoidable corruption. The beautifully textured and golden guitar-ed ploddings of “The Woodpile” can easily overshadow the insecure vulnerability of the lyrics. The song is a cry for rescue from a collapsing building, “a lit torch to the woodpile.” A stark juxtaposition that results in a certain bleeding urgency.
Frightened Rabbit’s Pedestrian Verse is what we wanted Snow Patrol to become. It’s the logical next step from Final Straw. It’s raw, it’s different, and it’s leagues better than anything Mumford or his Son’s could fit inside their banjo and kickdrum-shaped cookie cutters. Plus, Scott Hutchinson’s accent is just way cooler.