Despite the patron saints of Scottsman indie catharsis’ obscurity in their native lands, Frightened Rabbit struck hard here in the States with their honest wailings, lead singer and songwriter Scott Hutchison, a master stabber of the heart with a wry punk smirk – “It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm,” winked his falsetto-ing brogue on their breakthrough 2008 LP, The Midnight Organ Fight. Off-record, he bites just the same: “Enjoy a dram,” of his favorite smokey scotch nod, “whilst sitting beside a bonfire of your enemy’s possessions.”
On Pedestrian Verse‘s 2010 predecessor, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, they made the mistake of toning down these gut-punching charms. They were still indie from a label standpoint, and talked of “loneliness” and the art of being “Not Miserable,” but held back the rhetoric. “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” had a great hook, but it’s biggest revelation could be Snow Patrol sentiment – “Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?”
This record – their fourth – catches the crew on a signing with Atlantic, that surprisingly goes for honest broke, perfectly marrying their twenty-something yearns, snarl and all, with an anthemic production that doesn’t burry them in posturing, a “blood is thicker than concrete” collection of plain-dressed verses that don’t hide a damn thing. If one was to offer an analogy aligned with Hutchison’s affinity for his country’s namesake spirit, Pedestrian Verse is a cask-strength single-malt that brands just as much of the barrel onto your tongue as it does pop with the best salt-chunked caramel melted sugar hath wrought.
If you were to distill this experience into a single song, skip over to “The Woodpile,” where guitars go from reverb angelic to motorcycle gnar chasing a love worth speaking in secret tongues with, after yet another shit day “bereft of all social charms;” we all have ’em:
Will you come back to my corner?
Spent too long alone tonight
Would you come and brighten my corner?
A lit torch to the woodpile high
Come find me now, we’ll hideout
We’ll speak in our secret tongues
But Pedestrian Verse doesn’t quit in its 12 trips – angular and menacing in “December’s Traditions” (“after months of believing, fuck the grief I’m leaving”), mountain-top glowing in its stubbornness in “Housing (In)” (“you can’t carry me away now/please don’t steal me from my house”) and unabashed in its pain-mining in “Backyard Skulls” (“through the paddle of your boat, lies century upon century/The skulls untold, has hushed the suburban adultery”). Hutchison sounds like he’s going to crack when he cliche-calls it “the best album” they’ve ever made. But there’s more than a little bit of truth to it. May his fellow Scotsmen will wise up.