Brooklyn-via-Missouri six-piece White Rabbits enlist the help of Spoon’s Britt Daniel and put percussion above all on their second album, It’s Frightening. Frightening, indeed. Here, an indie rock band that may have seemed little more than fair-to-middling on their debut Fort Nightly have propelled themselves to explosive, buzz-worthy near greatness.
It’s Frightening is a dark and brooding record, at times haunting and relentless in its pursuit. The tandem drum assault serves as the centerpiece whilst biting guitars, plucky violin bass, and clunky lower-register pianos haunt the wings, roiling and interweaving in a spooky tapestry. Stephen Patterson and Gregory Roberts often sing in tandem as well, registering a somehow haunted since of messy harmonization.
Discord is abundant and the corners are cobwebbed. There’s something dead in the attic and the wallpaper is trying to relay messages via polymorphous pattern changes. Consider the violent ghostliness of the packshot photo: a collision between a phantom drummer and a furious keyboardist.
This is essentially an album with a strong pop sensibility and ample polyrhythmic assault made by guys with Wayfarer-clad bravado to spare. White Rabbits mine the same turf as Vampire Weekend, but they’re not as cute about it. Britt Daniel – who not only produced, but also helped arrange many of the tunes here – has injected the Rabbits’ sound with a swagger and brutality the Vamps have never known. Not that the two are in direct competition, but in a schoolyard fight, the smart money’s on White Rabbits.
Percussion Gun is one of the most album defining opening tracks in recent memory with its driving, deliberate toms and shouted vocals giving way to pounding piano-bass-handclap interplay. It’s complex and invasive, but instantly memorable. There’s a fury in the vocal delivery: “Where do you get off, and how can I get there too?” This one’s either a pugilist’s dream or a librarian’s nightmare.
Rudie Fails pays sneering homage to The Clash and bounces from droning piano liquidity to spastic machine-gun drum rolls. The story goes: “If your money ain’t no good, that’s fine. While everyone else is duking it out and taking names, I’ll just take a number,” ending with the shouting punk mantra, “No, I don’t care at all.”
Daniel’s Spoon influence is clearly noticeable on They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong and Midnight and I, both of which feature snaky left-hand piano accents. The latter features the haunting refrain, “Get to sleep now, get to sleep now. Don’t you ever wonder if the night’s alive?”
The Rabbits’ rhythm section is something to behold. Four-four is not their meter of choice – counting the meter on The Salesman (Tramp Life) leaves one dizzy with its signature. Right Where They Left is a tribal ceremony with ritual drumming and cacophonous yelps interspersed with ghoulish piano and lyrics like, “I see the house burning down, and I won’t let you leave.”
It’s Frightening is just the sort of sophomore release that White Rabbits needed to help distinguish them from the din of fellow Brooklynites vying to become the next rock ‘n’ roll saviours. No New York group has sounded this distinct and exciting since The Walkmen, and if the pattern holds, these guys are bound to keep getting better and brawnier with age.