Put on the second album from New York City’s White Rabbits, and you get pounded with all sorts of funny rhythms: fat and tribal on “Percussion Gun,” slinking and clattering on “Lionesse,” panning and chugging on “Rudie Fails.” This is a band who like drums, which explains why they’ve been known to put three of their five dudes on the kit. It’s Frightening, produced by Britt Daniel of Spoon, is an album largely concerned with just how needy humans can get, so the percussion is sort of the point: All the arrhythmic bam-bam-bams stand in for the tell-tale hearts, unsure footsteps, tapping fingernails and trembling appendages of people at their most abject.
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White Rabbits steal the last of Radiohead’s great tricks, the “Reckoner” or “Dollars & Cents” formula, in which the rhythm-makers work up an abrasive clickety-clack, the guitars complicate things with some spooky licks and the singer croons through the mess with a lonely melody. But save for the floating creep show that is “Lioness,” singer Steve Patterson sounds too tanned and healthy to pull off Thom Yorke’s shut-in seduction routine. As was the case on 2007’s more-fun Fort Nightly, he excels most when he embraces his own sneering-punk tendencies, even when portraying characters at their wits’ end, hungry for human contact. “Keep your cash under the mattress,” he pleads on “Rudie Fails.” Given the topsy-turvy arrangement and duck-and-cover sentiment, this should sound like paranoid-android material. But it doesn’t: Patterson isn’t worried about the End Days—just the prospect of running from the law with no company other than the thump of his chest.