Review Summary: An unremarkable debut, but one that planted the seeds for future excellence.
Throughout my time on this website, it has often struck me that many of the most acclaimed and hyped bands have progressed from rather unremarkable beginnings to create some of the music that we know and love the most. The National, for instance, started out with their self-titled, a good album, but one that pales in comparison to their later masterpieces. Thrice, too came from humble beginnings with Identity Crisis
, while Brand New’s improvement since Your Favorite Weapon
has been truly exceptional. Frightened Rabbit are another band that has gained a strong Sputnik following, yet they are another example of a gifted act that got off to a relatively slow start.
Hailing from Selkirk in the Scottish borders, Frightened Rabbit was initially a solo project of singer and guitarist Scott Hutchinson, but soon developed into a full band with the additions of Billy Kennedy on guitar and his brother Grant on drums. This, their debut LP, was released in 2006 by local label Hits The Fan, with a limited run of only a thousand copies. A re-release the following year increased the albums availability to the wider public, but the album still received little attention, falling well under the radar. The album’s initial obscurity was, of course one of the reasons for this, but the fact that there was little to get excited about must surely be another explanation.
As you might expect, Sing The Greys
is a rather primitive record from a band still very much finding its feet. There isn’t really much that makes them stand above the indie rock crowd, and while still a decent debut, unremarkable is the perfect adjective to describe it. There isn’t a lot of variation shown throughout the album’s twelve tracks, meaning that it can become rather tiring to listen to at times and many of the songs seem to blend into eachother. This isn’t exactly helped by the lo-fi production, or the fact that at this stage the bands sound was bare in comparison to their later works.
There are, however, also a number of positive aspects of this album that cannot be ignored. The charm that is often stated as one of the bands greatest strengths is certainly present, whether that be by Hutchinson’s passionate, Scottish accent or the heartfelt music that backs it up. Instrumentally, the band are also pretty sound, and although the variety present from here on in is absent, all three members deliver solid performances on their respective instruments. Hutchinson’s potential as a songwriter is also displayed, with a number of promising musical ideas and well-written lyrics making appearances.
Unfortunately, much of this said potential is left unfulfilled, which can make Sing The Greys more frustrating than joyful. Songs like Beware!
and Square 9
are spawned from good ideas, but end up losing momentum, resulting in a rather mediocre final product. The short interlude passages between some of the songs also don’t really enhance the flow of the album, making them rather pointless within its context. That said, there are a few gems here that make this album a worthwhile listen. Opener, The Greys
is driven by a catchy riff that makes it an early standout, a feature shared with the equally infectious Go-Go-Girls
. The record’s strongest moment, however, is Be Less Rude
, a wonderful three minute nugget that exhibits pretty much every positive aspect of the album as a whole, and remains one of the bands most charming moments.
Although it’s far from perfect, Sing The Greys
is still an interesting listen, especially for established fans of the band. Newcomers would be best advised to start with either of the two excellent studio outings that followed, but this often overlooked origin certainly plants the seeds for that future success. Every band has to start somewhere, and the fact that Frightened Rabbit built so significantly on this solid but unspectacular base is yet another reason to commend one of today’s brightest musical projects.
Be Less Rude