Review: ‘Pedestrian Verse’ is adventurous, more of the same

Ryan Morris

Editor’s note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

Certain albums by some bands are recognized as “masterpieces” and often become the standard by which all subsequent works by that band are judged.

Unfortunately, this creates a Catch-22. If bands wish to deviate from the sound of their “masterpiece,” they’re criticized for losing what made them good. If bands continue in a similar vein, they’re criticized for not experimenting further.

Scottish band Frightened Rabbit’s undisputed masterpiece is 2008’s “The Midnight Organ Fight” and is without a doubt one of the finest break-up albums of all time.

Their next album, “The Winter of Mixed Drinks,” attempted to break the Catch-22 by focusing on similar subject matter as “Fight” but expanding the production to a much more anthem-like extreme. The results were mixed, but mostly good.

The band’s third – and newest – album “Pedestrian Verse” finds the band still attempting to escape “Organ Fight’s” shadow, with tighter songwriting and production than “Mixed Drinks,” but weightier, less personal imagery and lyrical concerns.

“Pedestrian Verse” is bolstered by production from acclaimed producer, and sometimes Brian Eno collaborator, Leo Abrahams.

Abrahams pushes the songs to subtler, more affecting places than some of the more bombastic moments on “Mixed Drinks.” The piano slow-burn of opener “Acts of Man” is the obvious example of this, and the result is one of the band’s best songs.

For the first time, the members Frightened Rabbit wrote the material on “Pedestrian Verse” collaboratively. The resulting songs focus more on short, story-like vignettes, pulled together by increasingly dark, death-obsessed motifs.

Although this might indicate a sluggish, depressing listen, “Pedestrian Verse” buzzes with palpable energy and seems to suggest that this new collaborative approach is a way for the band to discover new ways around their signature sound.

Hutchinson still seems to have a fixation on dissolving relationships, and in tracks like “Late March, Death March” and “Oil Slick,” this works to the album’s advantage as a reinterpretation of the band’s own past.
Still, “Pedestrian Verse” is a strong release, with many excellent guitar-based indie rock songs that should appeal to the audiences of Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers and enough production quirks to reward repeated listening.

It’s the work of a band constantly tweaking a texturally and emotionally rich sound, sometimes failing but mostly succeeding in making that sound both comfortably familiar and subtly surprising.

Rating: Three out of four stars.

Story: COLIN MOORE, A&E Reporter