Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"Not Miserable Now": FRIGHTENED RABBIT's 'The Winter of Mixed Drinks'

Frightened Rabbit’s second album “The Midnight Organ Fight” was my album of the year at the end of 2008. It feels like a long time coming - heralded by singles in November last year and February this year - but the follow-up third studio album is finally here. So how does “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” compare to its predecessor?

Well the first thing to note is a lack, if not a complete absence, of any cussing or swearing. This is not a key factor for me in choosing what records to buy or listen to but there was something remarkable about how singer and lyricist Scott Hutchinson choicely deployed a f-word here, a c-word there to add a visceral punch to his bitter, angry songs. The new record you could play in front of your gran without fear of offending her - if she was partial to “self-deprecating indie-folk-rock filled with sexual jealousy, disgust and rancour” that is.

Because this hasn’t changed. The 2008 record was written on the back of a failed relationship and even though the 2010 record wasn’t, it still contains plenty of self-loathing and despair. The song titles alone tell you this: ‘The Loneliness and The Scream’, ‘Footshooter’, ‘The Wrestle’; plus the numerous references to collapse, failure, death or even “an eternity of suffering” in ‘Things’. True, towards the end of the album there is ‘Not Miserable’ (“most of the misery has gone, gone... no-one knows I'm not miserable now”) but c’mon they’re not fooling me for a minute.

Frightened Rabbit are now expanded officially to a five piece (with Gordon Skene late of Make Model joining Scott, his brother Grant on drums, Billy Kennedy on guitars/keys and Andy Monaghan on bass/keys). And this shows in the widescreen sound made even more epic as well as denser and more layered (please no Arcade Fire references again). But on a few songs like ‘The Loneliness and The Scream’ the earlier acoustic, almost folky elements are brushed out in favour of industrial noise such as the drone-like long intro ‘Skip The Youth’ or collective band chants.

It’s still a powerful listen and shows that no-one can make misery sound quite so appealing and anthemic as Frightened Rabbit. But I’m not sure yet if it is as heartbreakingly compelling as “The Midnight Organ Fight”. Also I know I need to get over my urge to will this record into being MOF2 - which it isn’t nor should be. So even with Spring coming, I’m looking forward to spending more time in “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” and hoping the rest of the record earworms its way into my affections over time in the way that first single “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” did.

And starting this week a short UK tour from Frightened Rabbit before they head to Europe and North America in April and May. At least one UK date has already sold out so don’t delay:

Thursday 4 Duchess, York
Friday 5 Club Academy, Manchester
Saturday 6 West End Centre, Aldershot
Monday 8 Bristol Thekla, Bristol
Tuesday 09 Academy 2, Oxford
Wednesday 10 Koko, London
Friday 12 Academy 2, Birmingham
Saturday 13 Leadmill 2, Sheffield
Sunday 14 Arts Centre, Norwich
Support from Airship. Tickets in advance here.

MY BACKWARDS WALK (Daytrotter Session)
Frightened Rabbit
[BUY "The Winter of Mixed Drinks"]

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