Riding the waves of praise since the release of their last album, The Midnight Organ Fight, Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit are poised for their breakout album. They’ve amassed a large following built on their recordings and a knack for delivering powerful shows to audiences across the globe. The Winter of Mixed Drinks finds the group middling between intimate club group and powerful arena-ready rock band.
The Hutchison brothers, Grant and Scott, remain the core focus of the band. It’s Scott’s vocals that dominate throughout the record, and Grant’s drum tracks that foreshadow a blistering live show. But, at times, it doesn’t appear as if too much musically is going on within the songs aside from these two, despite three other members now being part of the entourage. Take “Things” or “The Loneliness and the Scream,” for example, which don’t actually have too much traditional songwriting to them, at least as far as the instrumentation dictates the song. In the latter, it seems as if the guitar is merely there to keep Scott on pace. This isn’t a huge knock against the band, as Hutchison’s voice can carry the band alone, but it does lead you to wonder precisely what the songwriting process was during recording.
“The Wrestle” is the first song where you can hear a bubbly bass line just beneath the surface of the vocals. In creating this underlying tension, along with a staccato-sort of guitar strumming, the vocals really pull at you. It’s such a song where you can picture the band belting it out on stage to throngs of adoring fans who all sing along simultaneously. These are the type of moments you came to expect from Frightened Rabbit.
Guitars finally begin to crash upon your ears when you come to “Nothing Like You,” which is the fastest song on The Winter of Mixed Drinks. This is the sort of song that has the pacing and drum work to really win over fans in the live setting, but for some reason it doesn’t really seem to fit into the collection of songs here. Most of the songs have a slower, almost folk approach, so it feels sort of lost.
Much should be noted of the possible influence of fellow Scots The Twilight Sad. Many songs seem to be coated in atmospheric noise, but only as an extension of the song. “Not Miserable” has sort of a slow, drawn-out beginning, fleshed out by a fuzz in the background, whilst piano lines sputter along. It’s something that leads you to focus on the lyrical content, which is perhaps a very current Scottish trend. Then again, it seems like using atmospheric backing all about is just a general fad in the industry.
Once you finish your listening experience, it’s hard to sit down and think back to superb moments on The Winter of Mixed Drinks. Every single song is pleasant, and some might say they are all good tunes, but none of them really achieve that feeling of exceptionality one expected from Frightened Rabbit this time around. They filled the record with decent tunes, but leave you feeling somewhat indifferent, which is something you surely can’t say at their wonderful live shows.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/swim-until-you-can_t-see-land.mp3]
Download: Frightened Rabbit – Swim Until You Can’t See Land [MP3]