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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