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Frightened Rabbit

The Winter of Mixed Drinks

[Fat Cat; 2010]

By ; March 10, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

In the opening seconds of The Winter Of Mixed Drinks you hear the sound of a keyboard being switched on, shortly followed by reverberating guitars and the idiosyncratic moan of Frightened Rabbit’s singer Scott Hutchison, and that wistful aura that clung to the band’s 2008 breakthrough album The Midnight Organ Fight is instantly summoned to mind. However, it is soon punctured by a thumping bass drum and a steady build into a chugging stadium-rock song. Herein we get the first taste of Frightened Rabbit’s intentions for this album – to create arena-sized songs in a radio-friendly fashion without losing any of their own sound or artistic integrity. They do this in an adequately fine fashion for the opener “Things” and even more superbly on the second track “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” but inevitably somewhere along the line some of these factors get sacrificed.

Emotion is not in short supply on The Winter Of Mixed Drinks; only Hutchison could recite “all I need is a place to lie, guess a grave will have to do” and make you feel the complete gravity of the situation. The success of The Midnight Organ Fight was in its musical simplicity that laid bare the emotion of Hutchison’s words, the fact that in listening to it you felt that he might break down into tears in the middle of a song. Frightened Rabbit have decided on the follow-up to go for a louder and more unsubtle method of transmission, which makes them easier to listen to, but somewhat blunts their edge on a number of songs. “Nothing Like You” and “Living In Colour” are two such examples wherein their attempts to create a bigger and more confident sound yield something completely forgettable; the choruses are entirely commonplace and lacking in a hook whilst the lyrical content is akin to most songs played on commercial radio. The disappointment of those two tracks is made bearable by the inclusion of the back-to-back gems “Foot Shooter” and “Not Miserable,” which see the band returning to their trademark somber tones and themes. On both occasions they manage to implement their fuller sound successfully with ghostly backing vocals and atmospheric guitar lines that enhance and emphasize the self-loathing.

The loud and dense sound they create is excellently handled by producer Peter Katis; each instrument is perfectly audible, even at the boisterous crescendos of songs such as “Skip The Youth” or the swelling conclusion of “Swim Until You Can’t See Land.” This precision and gloss, however, seems to betray the rougher pop-folk sound that made their earlier work so loveable and is something that is missed on this album.

Perhaps comparing The Winter Of Mixed Drinks incessantly to its predecessor is unfair; Frightened Rabbit did set themselves an extremely high bar to reach. This album is still a success, just in a different way. Overall, the album sacrifices emotional depth in order to include greater musical expansiveness, a trade-off that may not have entirely payed off but a sensible one nontheless; they have avoided committing the cardinal sin of repeating themselves. If they had created another album stuffed with tales of strung-out heartbreak, the songs in all likelihood would have fallen flat and the album would have been stale. In creating The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, Frightened Rabbit have successfully passed a major hurdle in their career, though they didn’t fully exert themselves in doing so.


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