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"The Winter Of Mixed Drinks"

Frightened Rabbit – The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
03 March 2010, 10:00 Written by Parri Thomas
The theme of a love lost is one oft-tread in the world of popular music. In 1969 the Jackson 5 sang that: "Trying to live without your love is one long sleepless night," in 1988 Bananarama's polished pop called out: "I want you back, don't care what I have to do," and in 2008 Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchinson spat: "You're the shit and I'm knee deep in it." The Midnight Organ Fight dealt with the break-up of a long-term relationship in a way that was brutal, honest and identifiable. This heart-on-sleeve account of a relationship gone sour was delivered at a level which connected with its audience and saw the band gain much critical acclaim -- including The Best Album of 2008 right here on TLOBF. With Midnight Organ Fight so focused around one central topic it was always going to be interesting to see what the band did on its follow up.With demons already exorcised, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks is an all round more optimistic affair than its predecessor. 'Living In Colour' pounds with choral voices and arms aloft; 'Skip The Youth', the album's longest track by almost two minutes, is a slow building anthem that, although finding itself in the number five slot, would be closing any lesser band's album; and 'The Wrestle' is driven by purposfull bass (Bass? On a Frightened Rabbit record?) and urgent rhythms.It would perhaps be asking a little too much to expect no residue of Midnight Organ Fight creeping. 'Nothing Like You', perhaps the band's most radio-friendly pop single to date, deals directly with the relationship we're all so familiar with "She was not the cure for cancer," and 'Not Miserable' requires no more exposition than a look at its title. If Midnight Organ Fight was the catharsis then these could be seen as the closure.Musically, TWOMD gives us familiar Frightened Rabbit but, this time, with the added flesh of having two more full time members -- bringing the tally up to five. Where on previous records the band's sparse arrangements and lo-fi production provided an identity -- Scott and Grant using just drums and guitar for the most part -- here that character has been built on, this time with consideration to dynamics. The record is still alive with vocal loops, chanting and effects but thankfully no one tries to steal the lime light. Everything feels considered. Even the vignettes which sat amongst previous albums have been reduced to a single reprise of 'Swim Until You Can't See Land'.Following what many considered to be the album of 2008 can only be a daunting task. The Winter Of Mixed Drinks doesn't quite match up to its predecessor and that shouldn't come as any surprise. Many may lament the band's shift toward more polished production and optimism. Many may prefer Scott when he's angry and says "fuck" more often (this is, unless I've missed it, the first FR record that doesn't feature the word cunt). What shouldn't be overlooked is that Frightened Rabbit have produced a solid album that, even though it may not repeat past glories, still stands head and shoulders above its competition.
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