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Magic Left Behind
on 6 March 2010
Frightened Rabbit's new album 'The Winter Of Mixed Drinks' makes
a big noise. No doubt about it! The band's 2008 album 'The Midnight
Organ Fight' was a wonderful creation. Raw, uplifting, challenging and
uncontained in the nicest possible way. A revelation and surely one of
the finest releases of that year.
Much of that enchantment had to do with Scott Hutchison's voice; an instrument
with an enormous capacity to communicate authentic emotion.
I would like to have heard a lot more of it on this recording truth-be-told.
There has been something new added to the formula but something
quintessentially magical has also slipped away.
The eleven tracks delivered here are all good-enough songs;
well-constructed anthems but the density and homogeneity of the
production is so relentless that it begins to bludgeon the senses
into submission, rather than elatedness, after just a short while.
Mr Hutchison's voice is repeatedly placed too far back in the mix.
His efforts are all but overwhelmed. (Just listen to his performance
of 'Fast Blood' on the last album to be reminded of what has been lost!)
This truly great instrument should be way out there in front
dragging us along by the hair!
For a while on the almost splendid 'Foot Shower' I felt the wild spark of
former glories but it didn't take long for it to be submerged, once again,
in the murky sound-washes and overblown percussion skirmishes
of Stuart Hamilton's production.
The use of a layered vocal chorus both here and elsewhere is
over-used and over-stated. The deployment of a string section
is totally wasted. The textures which might have resulted from
its inclusion in a less densely woven carpet of sound are lost in
the mire with everything else.
Things reach a real low point with 'Living In Colour' whose potentially
rewarding melodic ideas are swept away by another mighty wave
of bathos and bombast.
Final track 'Yes, I Would' with its delicate and emotionally vulnerable
vocal raised my hopes and spirit a little but the best of the bunch
proved to be a case of too little and far too late.
I could have cried.
The cheap and nasty cardboard packaging added insult to injury.