Review Summary: AWOLNATION manage to avoid a sophomore slump, but whether or not they’ll make the leap to excellence is still unknown.
Diversity can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s great when artists switch things up by having more than one style of song; however, a lack of true musical direction can come off as unfocused and disjointed. The latter is what plagued Megalithic Symphony
, the debut album from AWOLNATION, Aaron Bruno’s electronic indie rock project. Seemingly jumping from slow ballads to abrasive beats like a kid on a trampoline, the grand symphony simply lacked cohesion. It seemed that its successor was almost guaranteed to sink even lower, and with the popularity of mega-hit “Sail” still lingering four years later, plenty could have gone wrong.
succeeds where Megalithic Symphony
faltered, and for that alone it deserves credit. It’s a much more focused album, and AWOLNATION seem to have found the path that they would like to go down. The electronic elements are used to create a more atmospheric mood, whether it’s gradually building from a chill start to a dark, gloomy conclusion, synthesizers fading into the background or pounding eardrums with its excess wubs. The louder songs are improved as well, with “Dreamers” and “Windows” containing much more energy; the former’s repetitions of “nine bloody dreamers of the dancefloor” is incredibly catchy, while the screams are some of the best he’s done (side note: the eight-second long scream of “FUUUUUUUUCK!” followed by a quick interjection of “wait” before diving back into the madness shouldn’t flow so well, but it does). Not all of them are great; “KOOKSEVERYWHERE!”, aside from its obnoxiously stylized title is too frenetic for its own good, while “Like People, Like Plastic” is simply uninteresting.
Even with that patched up, Run
is still an inconsistent album. There are flashes of brilliance amongst periods of shoddiness, and there’s no knowing when each one will come. It starts off nicely with the atmospheric title track and “Fat Face” before diving into the subpar lead single “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)” and the “Sail”-rehash that is “Jailbreak”. The last three tracks are also a bit on the weaker side, and had they been removed, this album could have been eleven tracks and 41 minutes long, which sounds about right, given that it’s a bit too overlong in its current state. Mostly, they’re just boring, as each one is roughly five minutes and aside from “Like People, Like Plastic”, are slower-type songs. There already is the title track and the acoustic “Headrest for My Soul” that do the job, and do it a lot better.
While the flaws that riddled Megalithic Symphony
have been improved, AWOLNATION are still far from being a great band. Their style of electronic-infused alternative rock has proved to be very popular within their following, especially with their singles garnering heavy airplay on alternative stations. Yet as much as their debut was very much a “singles album”, Run
offers more quality within its deeper cuts. There’s plenty of songs that aren’t cut to be hits that are great, while the ones that seem like radio tracks aren’t all that great. AWOLNATION manage to avoid a sophomore slump, but whether or not they’ll make the leap to excellence is still unknown. This time around, the problems are in different areas, and if Aaron Bruno can remedy that while keeping what they have going on here, then they might have the potential to do even better.