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Frightened Rabbit - Painting of a Panic Attack (Review)

Frightened Rabbit, Painting of a Panic Attack

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FRIGHTENED Rabbit’s fifth studio album marks the continuation of their evolution towards a stadium-filling band capable of creating songs that exhilarate or sweep you along on tidal waves of emotion.

Their second major label release, this sees a slight reshuffle in band members and the addition of The National’s Aaron Dessner on production duties. Hence, while a lot of the core elements remain – including, most notably, heart-on-sleeve song-writing – the sound feels more epic in scope.

Even Dessner concurs, saying about the album: “Great songwriters touch a nerve, and I think Scott [Hutchison] really touches a nerve with these songs. To me, lyrically, this album is a step above anything he’s written before.”

Evidence of this is apparent from the outset, especially in the way that the first two songs take you from ethereal poignance to uplifting power rock.

The former, Death Dream, opens amid some melancholy piano riffs before layering in the ethereal vocals and atmospheric electronics. It’s sombre, for sure, yet shot through with stark imagery and a cinematic sweep that makes it utterly compelling. If you ever pondered what Snow Patrol crossed with Sigur Ros might sound like, then here you get somewhere close.

But if you’re then anticipating an album of slow-builders and nothing else, then Get Out immediately shoots down that suspicion. The drums are immediately more lively, the electronics fizz and while Hutchinson’s vocals initially sound pained, the song explodes to life on the minute mark as he belts out “get out” like an adrenaline shot to the arm. It’s then that the song assumes a more robust, belting quality and you’ll like the change of pace.

Thereafter, the mix continues to be diverse but no less impressive. I Wish I Was Sober may tackle another addiction – one of the big themes of the album – but it’s beautifully delivered with easy on the ear piano melodies offsetting some of the more angst-ridden, desperation soaked lyrics.

Woke Up Hurting begins as if restrained but then wallops you with some great guitar riffs and beats over the chorus – again, in spite of the darker lyrics, which find the protagonist waking up in pain and with dirty knees one more time. The chorus, though, screams out to be played in big venues and is sure to become an anthemic moment for them.

Little Drum loops intricate drum beats around pianos and guitars and maintains an atmospheric edge, especially during the electronic moments that follow each chorus; Still Want To Be Here laments “the perfect place may never exist” and “the perfect time may be years away” but it, once more, retains a beauty in its melodic structure and optimism in its lyrics that endears, while An Otherwise Disappointing Life Break drops one of the most radio-friendly choruses – the sort that juxtaposes life-long disappointment with robust hooks and melodies.

The rockier side of the band is indulged to foot-tapping effect on the zippy Break, another song that instantly gratifies, while Blood Under The Bridge conversely showcases their ability to keep things mid-tempo yet engaging, with another chorus to get you singing along.

The final two songs, meanwhile, encapsulate everything that’s great about the album. Lump Street is a rousing rock epic that starts out with an ominous early electronic throb before bringing in some lively drums and a massive chorus that’s shot through with some rousing guitar and piano work (not to mention some stark lyrics, including “she tore his tongue out on Lump Street”). At the three minute mark, meanwhile, the pace quickens and the song careers towards a rip-roaring finale.

Die Like A Rich Boy, on the other hand, rounds off the album with a low-key slice of beautiful song-writing – acoustic licks accompanying sombre yet ethereal piano chords and a gentle set of vocals that talk of a yearning to escape. The chorus is great, again.

But then the whole album excels. It is, quite possibly, Frightened Rabbit’s greatest achievement to date. And it will almost certainly feature among the year’s best.

Listen to Get Out

Download picks: Death Dream, Get Out, Woke Up Hurting, An Otherwise Disappointing Life Break, Break, Blood Under The Bridge, Lump Street, Die Like A Rich Boy

Track listing:

  1. Death Dream
  2. Get Out
  3. I Wish I Was Sober
  4. Woke Up Hurting
  5. Little Drum
  6. Still Want To Be Here
  7. An Otherwise Disappointing Life
  8. Break
  9. Blood Under The Bridge
  10. 400 Bones
  11. Lump Street
  12. Die Like A Rich Boy