On Sail, the stand out single from the AWOLNATION debut, Aran Bruno offered an excellent commentary on the modern mindset, summed up by the refrain “Blame it on my ADD”. Here, he offers something which could actually be blamed on ADD.
This is not entirely negative however, second albums are notoriously difficult, particularly when they are following up a record as celebrated as ‘Megalithic Symphony’, and, at the very least, ‘Run’ is an attempt at development. The songs, collectively and individually, are multi-faceted, fusing a vast array of influences, veering from Nine Inch Nails to The Beach Boys to The Eels, while retaining a contemporary sound akin to Imagine Dragons and Disciples. Unfortunately, the result is more disjunctive than diverse, and very often things sound impressionistic, and not entirely convincing.
Still, there are moments of promise; The title track is a formidable and apt intro, showcasing elements that could amount to more with its combination of heavy bass synths, orchestral instruments and foreboding lyrics. And, continuing in this vein is the electro angst of Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf), the alternating pounding and gritty delivery of KOOKSEVERYWHERE!!!, and Like People, Like Plastic, a harsh and honest anthem augmented by the sugar-coated delivery of its haunted chorus, “I’ve never felt more alone in my life, I stand alone beside you”. On the other hand, the early AWOLNATION inclination toward dream (or perhaps, nightmare?) pop is indulged with the harmonious, if melancholic, piano ballad Fat Face and the sparkling, acoustic Headrest For My Soul.
Even if they don’t gel together well, all of these songs are almost very good. What they are lacking is what the album as a whole is lacking; conviction and focus. The delivery is not always heartfelt and the structure often becomes derailed, leaving Bruno dangerously close to collapsing into self parody on tracks such as the rapturous but ruptured Windows.
‘Megalithic Symphony’ was a triumph that had songs featured in Iron Man 3 and Sons of Anarchy, and that may be the problem. ‘Run’ is an extremely ambitious sonic brainstorm, and in time it may be looked upon as an important transition in the AWOLNATION oeuvre, but right now it sounds like a collection of songs more suited to being on soundtracks than on an album.
You can listen to the full thing here: https://soundcloud.com/red-bull-records/sets/awolnation-run/s-4VQTJ