Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse 12"
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Growing up in Selkirk, Scotland, Scott Hutchison was a shy boy. Left in a room with other kids, he would go quiet, and for this, the story goes, his mother called him "her frightened rabbit." Years later, less shy, he began to write songs and sing them live, then along the way he added friends to the act-- two guitarists, a bassist, his brother on the drums-- and with them made albums on which he howled and drank and fucked and fought, every chord seeming to push the memory of his skittish namesake further and further away.
Yet the shy little boy remains. If a single thread can be spun from Frightened Rabbit's first three albums, it's Hutchison's chronic tendency toward escape: into and out of relationships and the past, down through the bottom of uncountable whiskey glasses. "Let's call me a Baptist, call this a drowning of the past/ She's there at the shoreline, throwing stones at my back," he sang on "Swim Until You Can't See Land", an easy favorite from 2010's The Winter of Mixed Drinks, the band jangling along behind as he disappears into the sea-- in search of rebirth, perhaps, or at least a change of scenery.
But Pedestrian Verse, Frightened Rabbit's fourth album, finds Hutchison and his crew in different waters. Opening track "Acts of Man" immediately disarms. "I'm that dickhead in the kitchen, giving wine to your best girl's glass," Hutchison breathes in a nasal falsetto over a gentle piano; the song seems poised to continue as some porcelain lament, but then begins its slow zoom out, from the kitchen to the street to the bar down the way, the percolating guitar and heartbeat drums rolling out as Hutchison notes the bar fights, the date rapes, the coward's festering pride. "Man, he breeds although he shouldn't/ Breeding just because he comes/ Acts the father for a minute/ Until the worst instincts return," he seethes. "I am just like all the rest of them," Hutchison sings, and he offers no apology, begs no forgiveness, slings no blame. This is a considerable step forward for the dude who once sang of a mangled breakup, "My clothes won't let me close the door/ 'Cause my trousers seem to love your floor."
Some sort of heartbreak skulks in the background here, too, though it's balanced with hints towards a similar split with religion. In "Late March, Death March", Hutchison is on the outs with both God and a girl; it's clear he's already given up on one, and the other's not faring much better. Assuming personal responsibility isn't exactly the stuff rock 'n roll fantasies are made of, but it sure as hell makes for better living-- and, in the right hands, better songs. As a lyricist, Hutchison's strength is increasingly proving to be lucid assessments of social and emotional turmoil; he can't push away the darkness completely, but he can feel around in every nook and cranny to get a full topography of the shadows.