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REVIEW: Frightened Rabbit underwhelms on EP

Folkin' Around

Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013

Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 23:09

The alt-rockers in the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit have never been ones to disappoint with the music they release — but that isn't to say they can't be underwhelming at times.


With Tuesday's release of the U.S. version of the "Late March Death March EP," the band certainly triumphs with a great five-song collection, but my argument is that it could have been better. Seemingly strange to me is that the United Kingdom version of the EP was comprised of a completely different list of tunes.


Yes, fans in the U.K. received the title track — possibly the best tune released last spring on the band's full-length album "Pedestrian Verse" — and two live recordings of songs performed at Barrowlands, a dank little club in the member's homeland. But live tracks have never done it for me, and I'd already heard "Late March Death March" upon its original release.


The U.K. version sported two things the U.S. version didn't — an alternate version of "Late March Death March" and a tune called "Architect," a track previously released only on vinyl for Record Store Day 2013 and featuring a collaboration between Frightened Rabbit and U.S. rockers Manchester Orchestra.


These two tracks were amazing finds to the avid FR fan. Finding out that they weren't included for those in the states who bought the EP was — dare I say it — a huge let down.


What interesting — and spectacular — content we did get came in the form of three previously unreleased tracks: "Radio Silence," "Candlelit" and "Default Blues."


"Candlelit" is easily the highlight of the collection of songs. Singer-songwriter Scott Hutchison has gone on record saying the tune was inspired by his obsession with HBO's “Game of Thrones” television series and the theme of men fighting for the honor and love of a woman.


"Love's checkered past is littered with violent acts/And the blood to fill countless bags, each drop drawn in her name," Hutchison sings in a quivering tone, accompanied by a low-fi bass drum and reverberating snare drum. The electric guitar takes on a twangy, gritty country-western feel that would fit in as a lost b-side from a Johnny Cash album. The vocal harmonies and presentation are reminiscent of Paul Simon's "Graceland" record.


While the lyrical content on "Candlelit" could be misconstrued as aggressive by some listeners, it combines with the musical undertones to become one of the most honest and meaningful love songs ever written — even if its content is taken from medieval lore.


"Radio Silence" and "Default Blues" sound like the illegitimate offspring of Depeche Mode and U2, circa 1984's album "War." Echoing guitars, staccato bass lines, ringing techno programming tones and Bono-esque vocal lines pay tribute to U2 tracks such as "New Year's Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

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