Album review: Awolnation – Here Come The Runts

After being catapulted into stardom back at the turn of the decade with the ubiquitous track “Sail”, Awolnation are back with their third album. Topping a platinum-selling debut album was always going to be a tall order, but does Here Come The Runts have a chance?

Through a foggy mix of distorted guitar chords blended with clean plucks and raw synth, soft tones comes a galloping riff that wouldn’t be amiss on an Iron Maiden album. With vocals akin to LCD Soundsystem, the song shows the carefully woven mix of rock and EDM influences that shot their breakthrough hit “Sail” into the 6x Platinum sales figures, it seems that titular opening track, “Here Come The Runts” could see similar success.

With more of these distorted, almost grungy tones, comes the far more vocally focussed, bluesy “Miracle Man”. With synth tones bordering on 80’s hiphop, speeding vocals to match and a T-Rex-level of funky guitar and slap bass, all backed by a constant haze of distorted chords and tones to keep the sound firmly anchored in Awolnation’s wheelhouse, and in your head.

The album isn’t thunder and bass however, though tracks such as “Passion” see plenty of the overdriven guitar influences in the hooks, the verses are led with a simple vocal melody and cow bell rhythm; and you can always use more cowbell. “Jealous Buffoon” borrows the simplistic structure of “Passion”, pairs it with some disco-esque falsetto from frontman Aaron Bruno and gives a funky, fun (albeit somewhat lacklustre) example of the band’s sonic exploration.

Perhaps taking the furthest journey away from the somewhat chaotic distortion of many of the other tracks, comes the gorgeous, acoustically led, “Handyman”. The track is a stunning example of what could be a track from the likes of modern crooners such as James Morrison or James Arthur (it’s at this point that this reviewer realised how many James’ are singer-songwriters…) or even the ever-popular Ed Sheeran.

However, “Handyman” is very much Awolnation’s and their’s alone. The signature rumbling tones are present in the chorus sections and Aaron Bruno’s vocals are far from unimpressive, the track is a fantastic example of a ‘festival love song’ but given just the right tweaks to make it something unique.

Unfortunately, despite a predominantly excellent track of tracks destined to thrill a festival/gig crowd, there are a few tracks that should definitely be switched out for previous material on the next set list. “Table for One” tries the same route as “Handyman” with strings and vocal focus, but leaves us with a confusing, jarring chorus where Aaron’s vocals diminish into a shouting style the detracts from the overall mood of the song, making for a new form of chaos on the album, and certainly a less fun type.

“Seven Sticks of Dynamite” is less jarring than “Table for One”, but it’s massive drop in pace and change in timbre makes it another track that feels lost amongst the album as a whole. Thankfully, straight after “Table For One”, comes “My Molasses”. A bass-led, simple, melodic song that’s destined to be the crowd-pleasing sing-along number when Awolnation find themselves playing to a group of intoxicated people in a field, helping give them a break from the moshing and jumping. Following directly on the coat tails of this laid back anthem comes “Cannonball”. Aptly named, it serves to shake off the slightly syrupy traces of “My Molasses” and gets your head and body moving again, riling you back up for the end of the album.

The end of the album comes full circle to the beginning in terms of quality. Despite a couple of wobbles, caused by experimenting with their formula, in the middle of the album, “Stop That Train” rounds off the experience wonderfully. At six minutes it’s been given room to allow for more complex rhythm and style changes, something some of the other tracks weren’t allowed. From pounding bass to orchestral tones and a return to the Maiden-like gallops, the track is perfectly placed.

“Stop That Train” tails off an overall excellent album from Awolnation. The poorer moments are well disguised by neighbouring tracks of far superior quality, which in turn serve to remove the more forgettable tracks from your memory. A solid effort all round. Why not hear this record for yourself on a fantastic hi-fi system in the demo room of your local Richer Sounds today?





Author: Steve, Southgate store