Plumbiferous Media

The Winter of Mixed Drinks – Frightened Rabbit

Mar 14th 2010
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The Winter of Mixed Drinks - Frightened RabbitFrightened Rabbit
The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Score: 62

Scottish (but not Glaswegian) indie-rock band Frightened Rabbit released its third LP on the first of the month. The Winter of Mixed Drinks, which topped at 61 on the UK charts clearly shows the growing popularity of the band – and probably the power of Fat Cat Records. Unfortunately, the album is really nothing special. A mediocre combination of tracks that quickly begin to blend together given the complete lack of vocal variation, The Winter of Mixed Drinks is certainly not a breakthrough album.

While The Winter of Mixed Drinks does eventually fade into indistinct instrumental musings, it starts out very promisingly. The first track conveys an exceptional level of emotion, overriding any sense of repetition that might stem from the otherwise simple lines, the next track contrasts promisingly with the first, and the album continues from there. In general, the instrumentals seem to have taken a big cue from post-rock and possibly some more recent progressive, and on it’s own, it works pretty well, at least on the first half of the album.

The biggest problem with the album, however, is that while the instrumentals move around a decent amount, the vocals stay staunchly in the exact same place for the entire album. So while the vocals fit the rest of the sound modestly on some tracks, they are wildly out of place on others, and as a result, the overall sound quality of the album is significantly lowered.

Scott Hutchison’s vocals have always been much more direct than nuanced, and on Frightened Rabbit’s earlier albums, this has worked fairly well. On The Winter of Mixed Drinks, however, Hutchison’s vocals sound significant over-stretched quite often, to the point where, at their worst, they resemble nothing more than an impassioned whine. Fortunately, the “passion” part of that generally works, but the rest – not as much. On tracks like the “The Loneliness and the Scream,” this eventually balloons to the point of being quite annoying, and this certainly isn’t helped by repetition. At the same time, however, Hutchison shines on the album’s best tracks, such as “Living in Colour,” an example of Frightened Rabbit at its best.

The Winter of Mixed Drinks is largely composed of the same images and recollections that Hutchison has proven himself to be apt at writing with Frightened Rabbit’s earlier work, and it’s generally successful in telling those stories. The lines aren’t always clear: “We salute at the threshold of the North Sea in my mind / And a nod to the boredom that drove me here to face the tide / And swim” takes a bit of consideration, but as an image it works quite well. The repetition interlaced with these successful lines isn’t quite so interesting, especially as it appears on almost every track, but it’s alleviated somewhat by the aforementioned lines.

The Winter of Mixed Drinks is neither an amazing album nor one of Frightened Rabbit’s best albums. At the same time, however, it’s not terrible. Frightened Rabbit’s energy is still at the core of the album and can be found (with varying difficulty) in the best parts of Hutchison’s vocals, the lyrics (when they’re not being repeated for the fifth time), and the instrumentals (see: lyrics). But at the end, though that prevents the album from being a disaster (or really anywhere near that), it doesn’t succeed in making it anything better than middling.

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