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Frightened Rabbit - Sing the Greys

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Artist: Frightened Rabbit

Album: Sing the Greys

Label: FatCat

Review date: Oct. 2, 2007

Frightened Rabbit is a pair of Scottish brothers, currently on the road with the Twilight Sad, who bash out joyous, cacophonous songs about the frustrations of being young and male.

There's a disconnect, right from the beginning, between the music and the subject matter, as the album opens with an exuberant blurt of guitar and drums, and vocalist Scott queries, "What's the blues / when you've got the greys?" There is, however, nothing grey about this music, all bash and pop and jittery vulnerability. Even later, when the lyrics turn to a graphic description of floating anxiety/depression (which "sits in my stomach / and seems to be stuck") the song remains musically unstoppable. If anything "Music Now" is even better, a pounding bass drum anchoring it in 4/4, interlocking vocals crossing in bittersweet harmonies, a scratchy, pick-dragging guitar riff giving it a kick in the rear periodically. The song has an undeniable lift to it, in the way its eighth-note guitar flurries gradually coalesce into something anthemic and triumphant. And yet, if you listen closely, it's all about the futility, not the joy, of making music "that some cunt might like" as Scott puts it. "So if this song falls on deaf ears / I'll lip sync it so you can hear," he proposes, as his brother shouts "Music now / Music now" in the background.

Sing the Greys is Frightened Rabbit's first full-length album, released in slightly less polished form in the UK last year, but beefed up and extended (with a bonus live version of "The Greys") for America. The band has been gradually expanding over its short life, starting with just Scott in 2003, picking up Grant on drums next in 2004, and then adding a second guitarist, Billy. Their sound remains sparse and lo-fi, though, raggedy energy radiating from half-finished textures. Where label mates the Twilight Sad build shimmering walls of guitar sound, Frightened Rabbit tumbles puppyishly over its post-punk melodies. Think of them as Twilight Sad's scruffy younger cousins. Same accents, same rueful humor...but more lovable, less glossily finished.

Three of Sing the Greys's best songs – "The Greys", "Music Now" and "Yawns" – come within the first four tracks. (The first of three brief but rather lovely "Incident" cuts comes between "Music Now" and "Yawns.") After a slight let-up during the middle of the album, "Square Nine" revives the proceedings. Here, Scott rasps and breaks with emotion over a pounding beat and clamped, stinging guitar jangle. The song is about a board game in which every move away from square one is a move away from love – it has a desperate, clever playfulness to it.

The album closes with a live version of "The Greys," a little faster, a little tenser and ever so slightly better than the studio cut. Here's a band flying at top speed, arms flailing, voices breaking, cymbals crashing, just avoiding a spectacular crash…and, not inconsequentially, making the best song on the CD. Better get out of the way. These guys are just getting started.

By Jennifer Kelly

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