Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchinson has long led us down a dour path littered with cigarette-burned hearts and suffocated dreams. The singer’s love/hard-breakup/drink heavily/rinse-and-repeat ethos once felt intimate — see 2010′s The Winter of Mixed Drinks — yet on last fall’s State Hospital EP, the first Frightened Rabbit release to follow the Glasgow five-piece signing a major-label deal with Atlantic, such tales of woe were propped up (and rendered sterile) by lavish production. Pedestrian Verse, the band’s latest full-length and fourth, is still a transitional album — Hutchinson, drummer brother Grant and company now bring a noticeably brighter, more arena-sized sheen to their tales of woe. Refreshingly though, the outfit has struck equilibrium, balancing earnest with mainstream-sounding bombast that only occasionally tips into bloat.
The album’s blatant rock radio-aiming arrows (“Woodpile,” “March, Death March”) work best when Grant’s manic drumwork is less present in the sometimes-bulky mix, and Scott’s customary doom-and-gloom feels more astute (“Acts of Man,” “Holy”) than emo (“Nitrous Gas”). It helps, though, that the singer can still prod at his own self-seriousness, as on the jazzy album highlight/closer “Oil Slick,” when he offers, “only an idiot would swim through the shit I write.”