Tales that hone in on the personal to enthralling and humanising effect.
Jude Clarke 2013
Its title deliberately chosen by the band’s gifted lyricist Scott Hutchinson to challenge himself, Frightened Rabbit’s fourth album, Pedestrian Verse, is full to bursting with words and descriptions that are anything but.
After a diversion into more oblique themes and imagery on their previous release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, the band now return to the full power of their earliest work.
Opener Acts of Man sees Hutchinson’s falsetto croon weave tales of modern antiheros – “the cad in the kitchen, giving wine to your best girl’s glass”, “the amateur pornographer”, or men that “promise every girl we marry / We’ll always love them, and we probably won’t”.
The band doesn’t sit above this cavalcade of wrongs, though. The song ends with Hutchinson admitting he, too, is “sorry, selfish, trying to improve” and “not heroic”, the tacked on “…but I try” giving the song its emotional pay-off.
Similarly wonderful is State Hospital’s clear-eyed depiction of the birth and young life of its protagonist, “Brought home to breathe smoke in the arms of her mother”, growing up to become “all thighs, hair and magpie handbag”, all the while the chorus reminding us that “her heart beats like a breezeblock thrown down the stairs”.
The focus on family and parenthood – in the least sentimental way imaginable – is notable throughout, from Acts of Man’s reluctant, accidental fathers to Housing (in)’s evocation of “the starch of the family food”.
Religion too looms large, often intertwined with imagery of death, sin, loss, and there is a thread of violence – honestly depicted and resolutely unglamorised – as well. The lyrical clarity and emotional honesty shine through, though, with the warm sense of a band that genuinely both cares about and has lived the lives described.
Hutchinson’s tender Scottish brogue spins tales that encompass the big themes – religion, family, violence, love, loss – but his words hone in on the personal rather than the general in a way that is enthralling and humanising. Throughout, the lyrical clarity and emotional honesty of the band shine through, creating an album that is as much uplifting as it is in parts bleak.