Frightened Rabbit – 'Painting of a Panic Attack' Album Review
Our album Painting Of A Panic Attack will be out on 8th April. You can pre-order it in various formats, check out frightenedrabbit.com for all the options. The first song is called Death Dream. It seems like an appropriate place to begin, as it was from this song that the album title was taken. The title, as with the song, is intended as a beautiful depiction of something horrific.
After releasing five albums over the past ten years, Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit have arrived at both their most subdued, but mature work with Painting of a Panic Attack.
While remaining as morose as ever, frontman Scott Hutchison’s lyrics have evolved from the emotions tied up within a drunken one-night stand to tackling themes such as alienation, unmet expectations and anxiety.
After moving from Scotland to Los Angeles and in the process, leaving friends and family behind, Hutchison’s often poetic lyrics take on a more personal tone while still remaining relatable. Despite crafting vivid tales of his new life, there are turns of phrases or blunt one-liners that listeners would struggle to not relate to, resonating long after the album has finished.
With this subtle maturing of lyrics comes a shift in the band’s sound.
While they generally retain their signature stirring drumlines and cathartic choruses, they also introduce a slightly more electronic element to their music by way of synthesizers and electronic drums. This isn’t to say that the band move away from traditional instruments, instead choosing to incorporate their electronic counterparts alongside them. Through this, the band do not reinvent the wheel, instead opting to let the electronic component add minor flourishes and give further evidence of the band’s overall evolution.
This evolution is assisted through the introduction of an outsider, The National’s Aaron Dessner, who puts down the guitar to instead produce the album.
By doing so, Dessner injects elements of his own band’s gloomy, downtempo music into the Scottish five-piece. The subdued production moves the band away from the more ramshackle nature of earlier releases, shifting them away from the type you’d see at your local towards a polished outfit you’d see on a festival stage. In his production Dessner slows the overall pace of the band down, removing some of the foot-stomping, and rousing nature of some of the band’s earlier work.
Frightened Rabbit’s connection to The National is not unprecedented or unexpected with the two contemporaries often compared and grouped together. While it may not be original, it also not done without reason with the bands often sharing both a similar downtrodden sound and the consistent thematic element of entering middle-age. This is never more evident than in opening track ‘Death March’, beginning with a lone piano and Hutchison’s distinct Scottish vocals before slowly gathering momentum as the rest of the band joins in, climaxing with an introduction of horns and healthy dose of catharsis.
While Painting of a Panic Attack never quite reaches the soaring heights of brilliant sophomore album Midnight Organ Fight, it instead offers a more mature take on themes explored in earlier albums while also displaying a clear growth in sound. The band’s age and Hutchison’s move to Los Angeles result in a collected reflection on adulthood as opposed to the in-the-moment nature of previous releases. Listeners are left with a rich but subdued Frightened Rabbit and an album that not only lends itself to repeated listens, but a signal that the band are here to grow with us, sharing the pain along the way.