n the words of frontman Scott Hutchison himself, “at the beginning of 2014, I was wondering what the purpose of Frightened Rabbit was”. Their latest record, Painting of a Panic Attack, is a beautiful and mature album that reminds us why they’re so important.
Hutchison’s talent for weaving his brutally honest yet beautiful stories remains on this album, however Frightened Rabbit have integrated more electronics than on previous efforts, which is in part due to Aaron Dessner of The National, who produced the record. Another factor could also have been Hutchison’s move across the pond to LA, which required a greater emphasis on the exchange of ideas via email, as well as the simple fact of wanting to develop the band’s sound. The move itself was something Hutchison found difficult, which is understandable – leaving friends and family behind and moving to a place vastly different to his hometown of Edinburgh is bound to cause growing pains, and it was one of the main lyrical inspirations for his 2014 debut solo album as Owl John, which featured a song suitably titled ‘Los Angeles Be Kind’. It’s clear to see that these emotions still linger on Painting of a Panic Attack.
The album is much gloomier than their previous efforts, and the darkness doesn’t much let up after the opener ‘Death Dream’, which describes a horrific nightmare in which Hutchison finds a ‘suicide asleep on the floor’. His lyrics depict a grim scene as being strangely beautiful, and by doing so he manages to keep you hanging on to his each and every word.
The album is littered with uncertainty. ‘I Wish I Was Sober’ may be the closest the band comes to the “classic” Frightened Rabbit sound and deals with worries about aging, whilst the track ‘Break’ is one of the more upbeat songs on the album, but deals with finally placing blame on your own shoulders, as Hutchison sings “nothing’s worse than realising who you’ve hurt”. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as the album contains a degree of hopefulness, for example on ‘An Otherwise Disappointing Life’, in which Hutchison sings, “in the hollow chapel, suffering the silence, you’re the choir that sings this otherwise disappointing life back to life”. As well as this, the anthemic moments of 2013 album Pedestrian Verse still remain on tracks such as lead single ‘Get Out’ and ‘Woke Up Hurting’, waiting to be bellowed by drunken festival-goers this summer.
It’s not all doom and gloom, the album contains a degree of hopefulness
One early idea for the album was to create a concept album based on two lovers. According to the band, only two good tracks came from this idea, these being the final two tracks on the album, ‘Lump Street’ and ‘Die Like A Rich Boy’. The former of the two tracks speaks of a couple living “in a commissioned town, on Lump Street”, over humming synths. The song ends on another hopeful note, with Hutchison stating that “there is a life beyond the one you already know”. On the latter of the two tracks, the couple fantasise about extravagant deaths, in which Hutchison sings some of the most resonating lyrics on the album, including the line “I want to die like a rich boy even if we’re as poor as we are now”.
Painting of a Panic Attack is an album born out of change, but 13 years after they initially formed, Frightened Rabbit may have released their best album yet, which cannot be said of many bands today. With an album that’s full to the brim of despair and hope in almost equal measure, we find what the purpose of Frightened Rabbit truly is; the type of incredible music that grabs hold of you and refuses to let go.