Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks (Version 2)

[This week’s Sunday Supplement has been provided by Euan ‘Steinberg Principle’ ‘Kays Lavelle’ ‘Trampoline’ McMeeken, and turns Matthew’s own review of an important local release on its head. Don’t forget if you’d like to see a Sunday Supplement of your own published here, just email us at sunday(at)songbytoad.com. All contributions welcome!]

Before you all get a weird sense of déjà vu, no, you are not caught in time warp.  You’re not going back to the future.  You’re simply reading my review of ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’ by Frightened Rabbit as opposed to Matthew’s review that he wrote the other day.  We spoke about this idea the other night and thought it’d be an interesting thing to do: I’d be reviewing this record for my blog anyway so we thought, if my opinion varied greatly from his, it’d be interesting for me to write a review which, in a way, responded to his.

I should make it clear that in undertaking this exercise I’m not just looking for a fight.  I personally think Matthew is one of the most engaging and best music writers out there in Scotland at the moment.  That’s the main reason that I continually read his blog and shun the lifeless and soulless drivel published in many music magazines these days.  However, at the end of the day, what makes music, and indeed a music blog, so interesting is when a piece of music can divide opinion so greatly.

Unlike many on the blog the other day I point blank refuse to pat Matthew on the back for his review of this record.  Sure, it takes balls to say what you think, but I’d expect more from him than “this is awful.”   I think, and hope, what he meant by that statement was that, in the context of Frightened Rabbit’s previous 2 albums, and what his hopes were for this record, this record is awful.  Not that he genuinely thinks this record falls into the awful category because simply put: this album is far from awful.

But is it good?

My answer to this is, in terms of song quality, yes it is.  ‘Things’, ‘Footshooter’, ‘Not Miserable’, ‘Living In Colour’ and ‘Yes, I Would’ are as good as anything that they’ve done before in my opinion.  I believe there’s enough quality songwriting on this record to justify a much more positive review than it received from Matthew earlier in the week.  With the exception of ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’  – which I do believe is awful commercial garbage –  this is a really good record.  It feels more like ‘Sings The Greys’ in terms of style and, for me, that can only be a good thing.  Whilst The Midnight Organ Fight captured the hearts and minds of most people who love this band, it’s their debut that still makes me smile most.  The frantic pace and rawness of that record is, at times, just sublime.  And there are moments on this that remind me of that record.  The ending of ‘Skip The Youth’ echoes, in a way, the end of ‘Square 9’ – Matthew, if you don’t hear that then please play them together and realise your wrong about this tune.

Sure, there’s a much lusher sound to this record.  A much bigger production.  But really, what do you expect from a band on their 3rd album and with the resources available to them?  Of course more money will be spent.  Their music has always lent itself to a sweeter, lusher sound – just compare albums 1 and 2.  I would have preferred if this record had the rawness of their debut as it is what got me hooked into them in the first place but the same applies to TMOF.

Anyways, I’m determined not to let production affect my opinion of the record.  It’s not something I ever used to bother about – until I started reading this blog actually – and it ruined my enjoyment of the Broken Records album, even though the quality of songs on that record clearly speak for themselves.   I guess ultimately everyone has personal taste when it comes to production and it’s easy to let the production of a record distract you from the overall quality of the songs.  It is important to many, I’m not denying that for one second, but, and I never thought I’d say this, I completely agree with Rampant Chutney Consumerism (it really does hurt to say that) in that, if the songs are good then they are good and will shine through no matter what.

There are no instant hits on this record, like there were on The Midnight Organ Fight, but as a piece of music I genuinely think it’s a good follow up and a strong record.  It’s certainly not awful.  I guess at the end of the day you can’t please everyone though.  They didn’t please Matthew.  They have pleased me.  Like he said though, I’m sure they don’t care either way.

[There were a couple of songs to be included in this post, but give I already have two tracks from this album available for download I didn’t think I could include these – don’t want to give too much away for free, sorry – Matthew]

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