Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Frightened Rabbit

Pedestrian Verse (2013)

Atlantic Records

Pedestrian Verse was released the first week in February. I am writing this the second week in May. With a solid three-month resting period, this review is not one of initial reactions or comparisons to Frightened Rabbit's previous efforts. With slightly more perspective, this review is one of a developed appreciation and a deeper understanding of just how textured this record is. In a word, Pedestrian Verse is balanced – and done so well that listening to a 26 minute pop-punk venture about boozing and losing now has a sour flavor. "Scottish indie rock" may not cross the Punknews reader's radar all too often, but music with a marked intelligence and maturity could do us all some good (see the reference to Bulver in "Late March, Death March").

Repeatedly, Pedestrian Verse reminds you that after thirty-one years, just how damaged life can leave a man. "The Woodpile," "December's Traditions," "Dead Now" and "Nitrous Gas" all echo this. But with that said, Scott Hutchison's lyrics and delivery evoke something more than melancholy. It is more complex than pity. Underneath it all, there's an earned hopefulness that makes it nothing short of satisfying.

For a brief dissection, the opener "Acts of Man" does what it should – encapsulates the mood of the record. It muses the imperfect life, the average life full of oft-unspoken, disappointing realities but with the ongoing resolve to improve ("I'm here / not heroic, but I try"). Followed by "Backyard Skulls," in which Hutchison cleverly writes about the ineffective attempt to bury one's secrets. This ability to take a common scene and turn it around with clear, unique imagery is remarkable and rewarding as a listener ("All but perished now / but you can't erase the grin," "white silent skulls are smiling at the hypocrisy"). Musically, these two tracks borrow trends from decades past – the electro riffs and Genesis-worthy drum beats – but they are weaved in so well that at no point are they distracting.

Where "Holy" and "Late March, Death March" posit personal religious doubt, at no point are they preachy. Where "The Woodpile" and "The Oil Slick" are romantic, at no point are they disillusioned or dishonest. And where "State Hospital" is more ambiguous, it is not inaccessible. The tension between syncopation always grooves and never feels disjointed. The emotions that you feel are won over not through predisposition and repetition, but through smart lyrics and simple (yet sharp) tricks like accents and dynamics.

Overall, Pedestrian Verse achieves what so many records do not – it grows, it ages.