From Gallows to his Rattlesnakes reign, Frank Carter has been snarling with fury for over a decade – but that’s all set to change. Five albums deep, Frank Carter is swapping out the libido-charged punk in favour of smooth, introspective indie sleaze; without a shred of his signature antagonistic bravado, Dark Rainbow is a whirlwind of stripped-back alt-rock soundscapes, serving up Carter at his most vulnerable.
Opener ‘Honey’ kicks things off with a pinch of signature punk rock, lulling listeners into a false sense of security. It serves as one of the most punk-leaning track of the bunch, easing listeners in – all before the rug is ripped from under your feet. Crooning ballads take centre-stage throughout Dark Rainbow, and ‘Honey’ follow-up ‘Man of the Hour’ is its most vulnerable.
While Carter’s punk roots allowed him to blaze through his rage and frustrations, ‘Man of the Hour’ is slow, poignant and bruisingly self-reflective; as Carter loudly laments his years of being the token “rockstar, pornstar” of the alt scene, it cuts deep.
Carter has shed the blood-curdling screams of two-dimensional fury of his past, instead focusing on unravelling and understanding his own mind. Even his exploration of love is quietly contemplative, rather than his trademark blaze of dizzy lustfulness; tracks like ‘Brambles’ swelter in a haze of almost neo-psychedelic riffs and castanets, a bewitching trance musing over how love can bring equal measures of joy and pain.
Carter’s always been a horny bugger (that goes without saying) but this record’s nuanced exploration of love is somehow more intense than Carter’s historic carnality. Take 2019 track ‘Kitty Sucker’ and compare it with ‘Queen Of Hearts’ or ‘Can I Take You Home’ – while the tracks all explore love and sex, the diverse textures and emotive nuance captured on Dark Rainbow is striking.
2019 Carter often focuses on a driving, punk-rock-crazed rampage of stomping lust, but Dark Rainbow captures something softer, indie-centric and fuzzy. ‘Can I Take You Home’ has a thick, woozy Arctic Monkeys undercurrent to it, a ballad of total grandeur, crooning with devotion. ‘Queen of Hearts’ is even softer, with almost a ghost of a riff floating in the background as Carter croons with doe-eyed adoration and sorrow.
‘Sun Bright Golden Happening’ is perhaps the sharpest tonal shift of the bunch. The clean-cut piano ballad is truly at odds with the scrappy frontman we have come to know over the years, totally raw, vulnerable and hopeful. In all its gentle reflection, the track is the antithesis of cuts like 2015’s ‘I Hate You’ – a delicate burst of love and twinkling keys.
Ultimately, Dark Rainbow is an obituary. It’s putting the final nail in the coffin, burying the rockstar, the pornstar, the self-destructive man of the hour, once and for all. While there are hints of that flurrying punk rock renegade of yesterday, Carter and Dean Richardson have crafted a poignant, impressive record that thrives in its softer edge.