Listen: “Right Where They Left You”
I discovered White Rabbits by listening to my Man Man themed radio station on Pandora. A song called “March Of The Camels” (off their 2007 debut, Fort Nightly) won me over as it sounded like a sultry carnival of lost horrors at an indie rock festival. Under the careful watch of reverned Spoon member turned producer, Britt Daniel, the sextet of gentlemen known as White Rabbits enter the studio to produce their anticipated sophomore release, It’s Frightening.
The opening track begins with the men of White Rabbits laughing in the studio and then rips into a storm of aggressive toms – an appropriate intro for a song deemed “Percussion Gun” and one of the most exciting premiere tracks on this year’s Best of 2009 record list. Soon after the march is started a whiney guitar slinks in. At first I thought my record was skipping but it turns out the guitar is just snaking it’s way through a windy dissonance. Once Stephen Patterson’s vocals come in, the mood of the song shifts to one nearing armed melancholy. Such a theme is revisited many times throughout the record and at times begins to sound Thom Yorke-ish when Patterson’s vocals lift into the province of falsetto.
Second track, “Rudie Fails”, drives forward with pulsing toms and low toned piano notes as Patterson filters in claiming he “doesn’t care at all [about something]”. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to believe him as the emotions rise high. I begin to think this record is a big fuck you finger in the face to someone that did our lead man wrong.
Ironically as I type this last statement, third track, “They Done Wrong” clammers in with jaunty bass lines, stick clicks and sullen vocal measures. Halfway through the song a beautiful piano montage sweeps in carrying the tune into classical territory before dropping it back off in indie heartache land. Don’t worry through, the boys of White Rabbits aren’t getting too sappy and manage to maintain their cool as the song ends with atmospheric guitar chimes.
“Lionesse” reverts back to the ominous gloomy stomps White Rabbits enchanted me with their debut, Fort Nightly. Though eventually it devolves into a cry for attention as Stephen Patterson demands – even begs – for his audience to listen to him…which is unnerving since the song is so catchy but is nearly ruined by the whiny sod’s rant. “Company I Keep” is one of my favorite songs on the record with it’s lazy strummed acoustic guitars and Johnny Greenwood-esque electric guitar butterflies fluttering overhead.
Side B of the record is much more interesting…
With songs like “The Midnight and I” and “Right Where They Left” the band seems to revert back to where they left off with their 2007 debut. Such a backtrack is welcomed in my book as I prefer their debut over this record. In the music industry, name dropping can make or break a band and I feel Britt Daniel’s hovering presence in the studio and songwriting presence was borderline big brother…too much in this record made by a band who were breaking new grounds of individuality with their debut, Fort Nightly. Such an accusation hasn’t gone unnoticed by other popular music writers and bloggers who even go a step further to say that this record is a letdown for both White Rabbits and Brit Daniels’ fans.
I wouldn’t go that far… This record definitely noted the maturity in White Rabbits’ songwriting motifs which is a positive hop forward in the band’s career. Afterall, a band would become boring if they made the same record over and over and over again.
As for Britt Daniels- dude was successful in manuevering White Rabbits’ sound into a new realm of indie accessibility, sanding down their rough edges and cleaning up broken shards as they shattered through the looking glass.
Overall, the music outweighs the lyrical content on It’s Frightening. Lyrically, it nears the line of pathetic emo-ism in it’s overly confessional accounts and threats of revenge for the broken hearted. Luckily for White Rabbits, they have managed to create an opus of infectious rhythm, transcendent piano plucks and staunch guitars to construct a mote to keep their sad indie boy emotions at bay.
More of KEEP IT ON THE BROWNLOWE’s Best Records of 2009: