When White Rabbits showed up to play back in 2007 with Fort Nightly, their stock was a rising one. Their spunky, lively debut was a nice retreat and although it aped The Specials’ debut in many ways, that interlocking piano and brash vocals were a welcome addition to anyone’s year-end list. The next gradual step was to improve and grow from that sparkling debut, and enlisting the help of Spoon frontman Britt Daniel to produce, It’s Frightening is a good start.
The piano has taken front stage and it’s the predominant instrument of choice on the majority of the album’s ten songs. Relaying the melody and sometimes employed as a backing reinforcement, it gives the album a musical touch that presents an air of tight musicianship. The ascending notes that begin “Lionesse” are punctuated by angular guitars and snappy percussion. And it’s none more apparent than on the album’s closer, the somewhat awkward and eerie, “Leave it at the Door.” Played on what sounds like an out of tune piano, it’s hard to tell whether the main melody is correctly dissonant or unusually wrong. Even at that, it’s a nice change of pace and an optimistic view that the band is actually trying to progress.
Although this isn’t a splendid step forward, it is a worthy follow-up and one that might have a bit more staying power than their former album. What Fort Nightly hit with was a band filled with great ideas but that album lacked the fiery stamina to age well, and although it’s less immediately impactful, It’s Frightening sounds like an album with true longevity.
Daniel’s production brings out the band’s instrumentation and the music is left with a polished, accomplished sound. “Rudie Fails” sounds like a song taken directly from Daniel’s band, with its stamping piano chords and laid-back groove. And “The Salesman (Tramp Life)” sounds like something from Gimme Fiction‘s songbook. The latter is a snazzy tune, backed by a mesmerizing, menacing guitar lead and the band evokes the Austin quartet as they chant together, “Recognize me, recognize me, recognize me…”
With all of that in mind, the New York band hasn’t lost any of their edge and they sound just as catchy as ever with their guitar riffs set in place. Album opener and lead single, “Percussion Gun” is a fantastic way to start things off: guitar-picking lines, soaring vocals and more of that great piano. “Midnight and I” is a stomping, staggering song that finds the band recounting how those unwanted memories haunt you at night. It doesn’t hurt that the music possesses a spectral charm to it, with “oooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” vocals.
The fact that they didn’t decide to go for a drastic change is a fine and knowledgeable choice. Daniel justly brings the band’s best attributes to the foreground and It’s Frightening ends up being a tight and concise album. “They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong” is a proper song because it provides everything we loved about their debut, only in this case, they’ve done right in many, many ways.
“Percussion Gun” by White Rabbits