Frightened Rabbit -‘The Winter Of Mixed Drinks.’ (Fat Cat)
I was trying to work out the other day why it is that a band’s third album has so much resting on it. Then I realised: it all has to do with War, U2’s third album. This was the point, in 1983, at which the band broke through and were on their way to becoming -let’s face it – the biggest band of the last thirty years in the western hemisphere. They did more successful albums (The Joshua Tree) and artistically better ones (Achtung Baby) but this was the point at which, with years spent on album charts, top 10 hits, enormo gigs etc.. bands that had come from an ‘alternative’ sphere would be seen as truly having broken through. In subsequent years, it’s been the third album that’s been the marking point for the likes of Blur and Idlewild, even if the likes of REM and Red Hot Chili Peppers had to wait far longer.
Frightened Rabbit aren’t being talked about as having done a U2 – yet. But for a band not based in London, who are steadily making headway in the US (and touring alonside labelmates The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks) and appear to be ‘crossing over’, all eyes are on them now. Though the initial releases of their first two albums Sing the Greys and The Midnight Organ Fight may have made more impact north of the border than south it was a picture that was changing by the end of 2009. Zane Lowe and other DJ’s were picking up on the single ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ – the first single from this new album, and The Midnight Organ Fight made the NME’s list of the Top 100 albums of the decade.
So, the pressure is on them: to make the crossover, by delivering an album that’s good enough to make it, and take them beyond just being cult stars. Were Top Of The Pops still going, people would be expecting them to be putting out singles big enough for them to have a hit big enough for them to appear. Yet there’s also the worries of tall poppy syndrome, and that of whether in order to make the jump they’ll end up having to compromise what made them special in the first place.
However, I think that Frightened Rabbit can hold their heads high with this release. It’s not perhaps as immediate as The Midnight Organ Fight – yet, paradoxically, it feels more anthemic than either of their first two studio albums put together. Album opener ‘Things’ sounds like Frightened Rabbit still – but this time, instead of little clubs, it’s sets at outdoor rock festivals where they will be appearing ever higher up the bill. The aforementioned ‘Swim Until Yuo Can’t See Land’ starts off so fragile and yet proves itself to be a monster and makes even more context within the album than as a single.
Current single ‘Nothing Like You’ agains sounds like it could and should be a hit. Tellingly, on YouTube there are already a few people muttering that it’s not like FR used to be. Yet the catch 22 is that if it were, they’d be accused of repeating themselves. As an album it still feels like Frightened Rabbit -and with the sense of the cold and grey that seeps into your sou, bringing you down in the winter.
It’s not a jaw-dropping album, but it is still an excellent one. Frightened Rabbit are still singing the greys. And this time, they’re inviting everyone around the campfire. Budge up, there’s enough room for everyone.
The Winter Of Mixed Drinks is released on Monday on FatCat.
Frightened Rabbit -‘Nothing Like You’
Frightened Rabbit -‘Nothing Like You (alternative video)’
Frightened Rabbit -‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land.’