Four times a year, Nature reinvents the backdrop to our days. Its power does not lie solely in being able to change the weather but in having that change in temperature influence our own feelings and behavior – for better or for worse.
Frightened Rabbit’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks almost does the same thing. At the start, Hutchison learns to let go in ‘Things,’ to free himself of the clutter – “useless objects, a gathered storm of shit, put them in a silent shed, throw out your life’s supply” – by it seems – finally – realizing that physical possessions can never make up for the personal and emotional connections that we thirst for constantly, even at times without realizing it. ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land,’ (thank you for the gateway into the rest of the sea!) goes one step further and calls for a complete release. While in the former song Hutchison released his grip on the past, in ‘Swim..’ Hutchison forces his burdens to release their grip on him and seeks cleansing and renewal – “swim until you can’t see land, are you a man or a bag of sand?” – do you have the courage to float or are you going to allow yourself to sink?
Now, while the concepts behind these songs seem to be simple and familiar, there is one major aspect that separates The Winter of Mixed Drinks from a lot of other relatable albums and that is its sense of sincere urgency whose presence is strongly evident within each song. Three songs in, ‘The Loneliness and the Scream,’ we are reminded of how it feels when the commotion and chaos created while cutting ties, burning bridges and erasing memories dies down. You know the feeling, right? The supportive and concerned role players who walk in and stand as canvases for you to throw your feelings at until you’ve exhausted them are ready to leave – you can just sense it – so you lift yourself and do what it takes to prove that you’ve moved on – and now, it’s quiet. The hell that you raised setting yourself free has done nothing but create another hole for you to fall into –“it wasn’t me, I didn’t dig this ditch, I was walking for weeks before I fell in” – and now you’re left with a cannon of your own noise and no target to aim it at but yourself. The hunger for something or someone new to release a slew of layered and open ended emotions, frustrations and desires – “this is the test I left land for, to grip flesh and pull muscle in, the vice clinch of the struggle I can’t give in to the weight of”– comes full circle in ‘The Wrestle.’ Not strong or willing enough to continue dealing with ‘the best days of our lives,’ Hutchison begs to be done with the ‘ignorance of youth’ and the ‘learning experiences’ that are destined to come with it in ‘Skip The Youth’ – “though my body is far from old, I’m bound to useless youth and I can’t fake a fist to throw through the crust of the Earth” – because he is tired of the process of consequence and wants only to fast forward to a point where life is settled – “skip the youth, it’s aging me too much.”
There are things and people that we never forget no matter how much time passes or how hard we try. ‘Nothing Like You,’ is a perfect example of where we land after swimming from our past – “all the pain almost as painful as ever but something in me was not the same”. ‘Man/Bag of Sand,‘ can be regarded as either a moment of filler or a dividing line in the structure of the album. And here, we discover ‘Foot Shooter,’ which is, in my opinion, the album’s best track. You said it, you did it and whether you meant it or not, you didn’t mean for it to go as far as it did, come off as it did and carry all of that weight – it’s as simple as that. ‘Not Miserable’ brings a sobering aspect to all of the fucked up nonsense that has haunted the record thus far. With all that Hutchison has been through coming full circle, he realizes that by now it is all just a ‘pocket of fluff.’ Spiritually, he is cleansed and this time, he means it – “though the corners are lit, the dark can return with the flick of a switch, it hasn’t turned on me yet.” No one else seems to believe that his misery has escaped him but that doesn’t seem to matter to him anymore. ‘Living in Colour’ is exactly what the title implies. The dark clouds have parted, the duration of sunlight has extended – Winter is over and Spring is finally here and our hero has survived. Just as the seasons change, he has done so as well. Whatever it is that has melted the snow and brought with it fresh soil for the planting of fields of flowers, drew open the curtain and welcomed the colour back into life. As Hutchison sings ‘I am floating, with my eyes closed, with no sails, I am soaking, I am weathered by the Winter of mixed drinks,’ I feel as if we can all find a sense of familiarity in that visual, especially with today being the official first day of Spring. The final track to this musical soap opera of a man’s journey back and forth between desperation and acceptance is an apology, ‘Yes, I Would’ is a vulnerable apology filled with pure honesty and lacking any type of malicious intent. He’s been lost and he’s been found and although at this point he is as okay as he could be, it seems that the only thing left haunting him is the lack of closure, the inability to display who he has become and never knowing if he was ever really worth as much as he was told.
And if I shoot at you, you should shoot at me too
And we can drown in pools of the thick dark words we threw
And as my face turns white
I apologize, I am sorry, it’s not your fault
Well, what if I am never thrown that bone
And what if this tear in my side just pours, and pours, and pours
I wonder if you’ve noticed that I’m not around
The loss of a lonely man never makes much of a sound
And first it bleeds then it scabs
I feel like I’ve been filling up
Oh, change if you can’t be bound
‘Yes, I Would’
This is probably as official of a CD review as you will ever have read (you read through the entire thing, right?) on our little blog here. I just feel as though this album is better as an entire concept rather than with tracks standing on their own. With that being said however, each track is as powerful as the one before it and I recommend giving it a chance.
Frightened Rabbit is a band from Selkirk, Scottland and have released three studio albums up to this point with The Winter of Mixed Drinks being their latest (March 1, 2010). Frightened Rabbit is Scott Hutchison, Grant Hutchison, Billy Kennedy, Andy Monaghan and Gordeon Skene. They are currently on tour.