White Rabbits It’s Frightening

[TBD; 2009]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: indie rock, pop rock, minimalist rock
Others: Spoon, The Walkmen, French Kicks

Although the young career of White Rabbits began independently of any major patronage, the release of It’s Frightening will make it difficult to speak of them without mentioning Spoon in the same breath. Much in the way that "All the Young Dudes" tethered Mott the Hoople to Bowie’s legacy, Britt Daniel’s production involvement on It’s Frightening will be a central point for White Rabbits as they continue to grow in reputation. The connection, in this case, is entirely warranted; though a fine, muscular rock album, It’s Frightening sounds so much like a lost Spoon session that it overshadows almost every other facet of the album.

The similarity is both fortunate and not. White Rabbits have only to gain from the association. Two years ago they debuted auspiciously, but failed to inspire much in the way of a strong following. Their sophomore record could have slumped or could have just been more of the same; instead, they have made an album that is, without argument, more spry, more fit, and more durable than Fort Nightly. The downside is that from this point forward they will be thought of, more or less, as an expansion team. After It’s Frightening, it will now require a large measure of reinvention to change the course of their narrative.

The characteristics of their debut that differentiated White Rabbits from other mid-’00s indie acts, such as the use of two drummers and the low-key piano underpinning, have been molded into a shape that no longer feels different. Lead singer Greg Roberts sells the songs with just the right amount of grit and gravel, while drummers Matthew Clark and Jamie Levinson keep the pace brisk and upbeat. The corners of the songs, like the lead into "Lioness," are scruffy and deceptively deep-sounding. But none of these touches feels even the least bit unique. "They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong" isn’t a canny piece of mimicry, but rather the genuine article; it could fool even the most die-hard Spoon fan. "Rudie Fails," which nods to The Clash in both name and drummed intro, is a sassy highpoint to the record, a song that matches growl with bite. The level of quality is remarkably consistent throughout; every song on It’s Frightening sounds like a potential single, in or out of the context of the record. On that level, White Rabbits have succeeded greatly.

White Rabbits have made a limber, urgent record, one that feels organic and unfettered. If organic, however, then it is an organ of a more prominent and recognizable body. This is hardly a sin of any great sort, but it does reduce the impact of what White Rabbits have achieved here. They have, with the support of the original band, successfully cloned one of the most critically respected, long-running indie acts around. It’s Frightening is far from a bloodless copy of a more vivid being; it is, rather, a living, breathing creation, one that is only dubiously theirs.

1. Percussion Gun
2. Rudie Fails
3. They Done Wrong / We Done Wrong
4. Lionesse
5. Company I Keep
6. The Salesman (Tramp Life)
7. Midnight and I
8. Right Where They Left
9. The Lady Vanishes
10. Leave It At The Door

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