Our Verdict: 8/10
Release date: 16th March
Find it at: Red Bull Records
Review by: Graeme Blackwell
“Detailed, energised, angry and huge. Alt-pop archaeologists will be picking over the minutiae of Run for weeks to come.”
Awolnation’s genius lies in Aaron Bruno’s ability to mash and mould music in unexpected ways to create soundscapes that result in a whole that is always greater than the sum of its parts. Previous multi-million selling single “Sail”, lifted from the band’s debut album Megalithic Symphony, crossed over in to the popular consciousness and brought the band in to a pop space that, by Awolnation’s own admission, they felt they didn’t belong in. Where will sophomore album, Run, take them next then?
The album’s title track is a prime example of their aforementioned boundary-breaking prowess. In it’s opening bars it sounds redolent of a slow-burning R&B pop chart hit. Yet by the time it draws to a close 4 minutes later, it has grown and morphed, wriggled and writhed its way in to a new and tight-fitting skin, the resulting slinky electro-metal pulse pounding in your ears like something Trent Reznor would have recorded in the early days of his career. The lyrical refrain of “I am a human being, capable of doing terrible things” just adds to the air of menace.
Those with a penchant for the dark tones of such EDM-tinged rock n’ roll might find the following track “Fat Face” a stark contrast when it first hits, its piano line delivering a warm and welcoming bed of chords over which Aaron Bruno sings of walking “to the rhythm of your heart.” Take a closer listen however, and lines about “casting shadows” and still being “bitter” begin to stand out. As Bruno yells his way through the second half of the song, his voice treated and abrasive in tone and texture, the whole thing is delightfully turned on its head.
Elsewhere the multi-faceted, progressive pop tendencies found in lead single “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)” deliver a stop-start thrash of a verse bolted on to a driving up-tempo radio-friendly chorus, the song rounding out in an explosive blast of guitar and electronics – capped with a highly charged emotional metal scream – that seem pre-destined to reduce stadiums to rubble.
Somehow, across its running time, Run manages to absorb, assimilate, chew up and spit out influences from across the history of rock, alternative and pop music – see the debt to the Beatles evident in the rhythmic and vocal stylings of “Jailbreak” or the Gary Numan-esque electro of “Dreamers” – and serve them up in striking, captivating and evocative new ways. It is almost as if Bruno has – by traversing left and right across the musical landscape – created a centre all of his own by virtue of the spaces in-between.
As a whole Run feels highly detailed and more darkly introspective than mega-selling debut Megalithic Symphony, and yet it still feels energised, angry and huge. It’s the kind of album that warrants many a repeated listen, and one that will have alt-pop archaeologists picking over the details for weeks and months to come.
You can watch Awolnation’s official video for lead single “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)” below. The band will play a headline show in London at the city’s Electric Ballroom on the 1st April.
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