Despite making it to five albums, with the latest 40% released through Atlantic Records, Frightened Rabbit still feel understated and underappreciated, even within their home country which adores them so. Latest album Painting Of A Panic Attack follows Pedestrian Verse to form the band’s major label duo, with the preceding trio of albums being released via FatCat Records. Upon a first listen to the record, it was overwhelmingly grey, a monotonous record of unimaginative indie teetering on the edge of being downright boring. Thankfully, that opinion was complete nonsense, and with repeated listens (and evidently a lot more focus) the record was revealed to be the quintet’s most accomplished to date.
The album is still grey however, just not in a bland way, but in a sombre and emotive way which is captured by the atmosphere (and colour) of the artwork. Frontman Scott Hutchison’s vocals have always been endearing, and have evolved from the playfulness of Sing the Greys through the ingenuity of The Midnight Organ Fight to the maturity they possess now. The lyrical content here is largely self-reflective, as in previous records, with a prominent strand of alcohol-related material which is most evident in the poignant one-two of ‘I Wish I Was Sober’ and ‘Woke Up Hurting’.
Starting with ‘Death Dream’, both as the album’s opener and initial preceding single, this overarching negative tone is set as Hutchison reflects to the slow march of his bandmates’ instruments accompanied by some wonderfully poised brass. ‘Get Out’ is a jagged track which injects some energy amidst the tale of a love lost but not yet forgotten, and one of the record’s strongest numbers. The flowing narrative and contrast of ‘I Wish I Was Sober’ and ‘Woke Up Hurting’ is enthralling, with the latter track’s infectious chorus providing one of the album’s best moments, and comparable moment is the melody of ‘Break’ which will similarly linger in your head for days. These moments are reminiscent of the invigoration imparted by previous single and anthem ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’ or absolute classic ‘Square 9’. The general feel of the record however is the realms of ‘Floating In The Forth’ or ‘State Hospital’, solemn in a relatable way which makes the tracks instantly loveable and confirms the band’s songwriting credentials.
Whilst the majority of the songs on Painting Of A Panic Attack fall somewhere on the route to “beige indie” with their slow pace and lack of flourishes, the approach has been adopted throughout Frightened Rabbit’s career as they use measured soundscapes and lyrics to convey the appropriate amount of emotion. The closing pair of tracks buck this trend, as penultimate number ‘Lump Street’ progresses as a synth-heavy allegory before evolving into something with a little more vigor, and the endearing ‘Die Like A Rich Boy’ falls somewhere between ‘Poke’ and ‘Snake’ as acoustic guitar and vocal take centre stage for the closing act.
Having released a major label debut which ticked all the boxes which these things require, Frightened Rabbit have taken its successor as opportunity to switch that expensive new suit for something equally fashionable but considerably more comfortable. Undoubtedly this combination of talent and exposure (posters on Glasgow Subway!) will help propel this outfit from Selkirk to the world, and that result would be nothing less than the phenomenal quintet deserve.