It's no secret that Frightened Rabbit are something of a house favourite here at EbM, and the EPs that preceded their most recent album have all been well received on these pages. A Frightened Rabbit EP, and State Hospital both appeared to drop hints as to what the next album would bring; a rougher, less anthemic record than Winter of Mixed Drinks, more in the vein of their breakthrough album, Midnight Organ Fight. In some regards, that prediction turned out to be true, but in others it was just plain wrong. Pedestrian Verse, the band's fourth LP, is undeniably more ‘edgy’ than its predecessor, but in many ways is actually more anthemic and slick.
For FR's first outing on major label Atlantic they've most certainly embraced the opportunity. Pedestrian Verse sounds, quite simply, massive. The scope, ambition, and reach on display here shows a band not afraid to strive for real cross-over success. The textures and sonics of the main singles – most notably Woodpile – are decidedly ‘radio friendly’ in their aesthetics. Having left producer Peter Katis behind when they switched labels, production duties on this record were handled by Leo Abrahams, who's polished the FR sound to a level of sheen and shimmer that would have been anathema to anyone getting excited by the band's debut record Sing The Greys. And therein lies the clue to why the EPs were so deceptive; for those the band did most of the production themselves.
As a musical unit, Frightened Rabbit clearly have a solid grasp on what they want their sound to be, and an equally clear idea of how to achieve it. Despite all the major-label spit and polish, Pedestrian Verse still sounds like a FR record; which is to say that at times it's rough and raw and downright vulgar. Songwriter/band-leader Scott Hutchinson has moved on from writing songs of heartbreak, drunkenness and misfortune; his metaphor of choice for this outing is death and murder. So really nothing much has changed lyrically, it's just that the scope has widened.
There are a few moments of lyrical and melodic filler in this record, but even in cases where the song doesn't seem to work, the instrumentation and arrangements are so strong that they carry the weaker moments and even manage, on songs like December's Traditions, to turn what could have been a really bad song into a genuinely uplifting musical moment. The poor sections, however, are very much in the minority here, and even the worst bits of Pedestrian Verse are better than most of the music that's been released this year. No matter how much Frightened Rabbit tinker with their sound, they always manage to come up with something that could well have been tailor-made to appeal exactly to my tastes and fancies.