To see how much Awolnation have changed in the four years between the release of their first album, Megalithic Symphony, and their new, sophomore effort RUN, one need only compare the opening lyrics to both records. While Megalithic Symphony began with the slightly meandering line “I saw a sort of gypsy, hippy lady with her daughter” RUN is kicked off with a direct, dark declaration: “I am a human being capable of doing terrible things.”
Although their past release hinted at a certain darkness, RUN embraces the weird, the damaged, and the emotionally raw with gusto. To say the band have ‘matured’ would be slightly patronizing, but it is certainly true that they have streamlined their sound. Their control over emotional tone has increased tenfold – one need only look as far as the nightmarish rumblings album opener Run breaks apart into to realize that this is a band with far more to offer than one might have thought while listening to Megalithic Symphony.
The album manages to exhibit a fractured, disturbing tone, while still being a pop album over anything else. Even when lead singer Aaron Bruno and his troubadours drop a song as upbeat as Fat Face or Lie Love Live Love, the creeping sense of darkness is impossible to ignore. Although the former, a gentle, piano led ballad could be the theme song to an inoffensive, TV drama; something about the song conjures up off-kilter, disturbed imagery. It’s gentle, but it’s too gentle, almost like the quiet smile the serial killer flashes before they sink in the knife.
Other album highlights include the pounding, demented Jailbreak, a song that showcases Bruno’s impressive vocal abilities. There is something endlessly interesting about the way the man can go from a tender, gentle sung line, to a full on, barely controlled scream without missing a beat.
The album isn’t perfect, however, and there are a few missteps: the tonal mashup of Windows is good, but the song feels a little like more of what was nailed on earlier tracks like I Am or Headrest For My Soul. Woman Woman is another stumble – although Bruno’s vocal delivery is impressive, there is something slightly flat about the electronic arrangement, and the song moves in largely predictable ways.
But these quibbles shouldn’t dissuade expectant fans from the album. Ultimately, RUN is a demented, delirious pop rock delight. I came to it reluctantly, having never really been an Awolnation fan; the fact that it won me over as quickly and completely as it did is a compliment indeed.