RABBIT IN THE BLOOD – Rabbit In The Blood

The debut EP by atmospheric duo Rabbit In The Blood was a superbly played, but extremely thought-provoking and sometimes downbeat release. Their self-titled full-length release offers more of the same, with the extended playing time offering an even deeper voyage into their world of introspection, wonderment and sadness.  Three of the original EP cuts are reproduced here (‘The House of The Dead Stereo’, ‘Do You Feel The Sun’ and the disturbing ‘Day At The Beach’), but these possibly get outshone by a couple of the newer offerings.

‘Be Gone’ offers straight up acoustic folk, on a number which sounds like it could be written for the ukulele. In typical Rabbit In the Blood style, the softness is counter-balanced by a lyrical hardness, concerning a rather spiteful character. There’s no disguising the contempt for a man who spews words like “shit from a drain” and who needs “kicking when he’s down”, but looking at the musical aspects alone, this is a great number, featuring a well-arranged string section and upright bass.  ‘Fox, Songbird and Crow’ is incredibly sparse, with atmospheric drones and acoustic guitar lines providing the basis for Neil Luckett’s lead vocal, which starts gently, eventually building to a crescendo.  It’s been given extra interest by the use of vocal effects.  If Rabbit InThe Blood set out to create a trippy piece which captures the spirit of Black Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’ then this track is a success.  ‘Sleep Tight’ finds Luckett in one of his best (multi-tracked) vocal performances, but it’s the musical arrangement which wins out overall, featuring a great mix of strings and bass, while some acoustic complexity is augmented by a soft rattling maraca.

For straight story-telling, ‘Dungeon Master’ is one the album’s best numbers. Over soft, finger-picked acoustic guitar, Luckett recounts a childhood friendship from the past: days of “Smash Hits”, early attempts at song-writing that “weren’t Lennon & McCartney” and the general naivety of youth.  In just under three minutes, this is a song to which everyone should be able to relate; a powerful reminder of all of our pasts and of friendships lost in the mists of time.  If you haven’t been rattled by the lyrics beforehand, the reminder that a lost childhood friend is “known in someone else’s life as a man” could be the absolute clincher.  Another musical highlight comes courtesy of ‘Don’t Wait’, a multi-layered jazzy affair.  Aside from showcasing Luckett’s finger-picking style once again, this is also home to a solid organ line (and cracking solo) from Mark Lord as well as a really bouncy drum part and some warm, upright bass.  As is so often the case with these guys, though, don’t be fooled into thinking this is an especially uplifting number.  Like ‘Dungeon Master’, the lyrics are, once again, concerned with our own mortality and the fragility of life – this time, the importance of telling those you love how you feel before it’s too late.  This point is hammered home by verses which tell tales of loss: a woman who gets swallowed up by an earthquake and a family picnic which ends in lightning-related tragedy.  Didn’t see that coming….

The gorgeous ‘Unresolved’ has a similar reflective air, but being a tale of packing boxes to move house, such reflection is balanced out by the excitement of looking forward, and also the idea that everyone moves on.  The use of strings and harpsichord offers another great arrangement.  The album is not all downbeat though. ‘Clap Hands, Fall Down’ has an extremely chirpy arrangement, with rousing guitar lines and hand-claps.  Mark Lord’s organ playing has a care-free manner which befits the upbeat tune, and he sounds like he relishes the opportunity to play something a little looser.  Put against the rest of material, ‘Clap Hands’ doesn’t sound so natural for Rabbit In The Blood, but even so, the album needed a little light relief.

‘Rabbit In The Blood’ [the album] is a deep work which requires a few listens to really get to grips with, but after a handful of spins, it shows itself to be incredibly strong.  The song writing and arrangements are often great, but like the preceding EP, you really ought not to listen if you’re feeling a bit fragile.

Visit Rabbit In The Blood here.

June 2011