Released: March 2015
With their first big hit Sail a whole five years old now, Awolnation look to move on from their previous success and prove themselves to be more than a one hit wonder on this second LP Run. A unique and perplexing fusion of indie, hard rock and experimental dance, Run is intriguing, peculiar and perhaps a little too much to take in for new listeners.
Effectively the brain child of frontman Aaron Bruno, Run is a lengthy odyssey of sound that straddles innumerable sounds, genres and devices. Its ambition cannot be faulted, a direct continuation of the genre-defying eclecticism of debut album Megalithic Symphony, as Bruno looks to encapsulate the epic, personal and celestial on this intricate, explorative record. The only thing that lets Run down is the lack of understanding of its own limitations.
Throughout the album heavy rock and dubstep-esque bass lines intertwine with a surreal coherence that for the most part works really well, somehow. Lead single Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf ) is a fine example of Bruno’s ability to fuse rock with dance, straddling the two distinct styles with intensity and atmosphere. Its full-throttle, cinematic tone endures throughout the record, best represented on Dreamers and Windows which also display echoes of Jack White’s pacey neo-blues and Alt-J’s melodicism respectively. The strongest numbers on this LP are absolutely these, as they form a bridge between styles and strengthen the definition of Awolnation as a unique act with a real purpose about them.
Equally important in the staking of Awolnation’s claim as one of this decade’s most unique acts is Bruno’s classic American rock vocal style. There’s Grohl, Rose and Jagger in his voice, which has him convey emotional depth alongside rousing anthemia in gritty, testosterone-fuelled fashion. It gets a little caricature at times, particularly near the album’s conclusion on Lie Love Live Love and Like Human, Like Plastic, but for the most part the vocals stand up with the instrumentation as clinical factors in Awolnation’s uncompromising allure.
Two key issues detract from Run’s more impressive moments, the first being its unjustified length and occasional self-indulgence. While the intensity of Awolnation’s sound is a welcome breath of fresh air, it doesn’t quite manage to stretch over fourteen tracks, and would be better suited to a more concise album. This, accompanied by the redundant piano ballads that crop up every three tracks or so, is what stops Run from becoming something truly special.
Run presents an exciting view to the future of Awolnation’s musical output. Though there isn’t any particular track that stands out like Sail, what cannot be denied is that this group is expanding their sound in directions few other artists dare to go. It’s overlong and seems to think it’s more artistically challenging than it is, but for intense, charged and unapologetically idiosyncratic pop rock, this second studio release comes up trumps.