AWOLNATION // HERE COME THE RUNTS
Here Come the Runts, the latest studio album by alt rock band AWOLNATION, is 3 AM at an underground club with flashing strobe lights and melting eyeliner fading into a morning of baggy sweatshirts, greasy breakfast, and golden sunlight.
14 songs long, Here Come the Runts feels significantly longer than many recent releases from fellow alt rock contemporaries – but a lot of the feeling of length can be attributed to the more a-melodic focus of the album compared to other AWOLNATION releases. While AWOLNATION has always explored electronic-leaning and experimental sounds with unexpected melodies, the new album at points lacks the powerful melodies and musical phrasing of past songs like “SAIL,” “Kill Your Heroes,” “I Am,” and “Run,” among others.
Without those melodies and distinct musical moments to anchor the listener, Here Come the Runts can be hard to listen to straight through at points. There are definite exceptions, such as “Handyman,” “Cannonball,” and “Table for One,” which are even more traditionally alt rock than many of AWOLNATION’s past songs. A couple of songs that best accomplish the strengths of past albums while still encapsulating the newer sound are “Passion,” and “Miracle Man.”
Fans of AWOLNATION are no stranger to disjointed or more experimental lyrics versus straightforward narrative or basic poetry. On Here Come the Runts the lyrics are no exception, but there are several songs that feature long stretches with no vocals at all, and the lack of melody on many tracks make the less straightforward lyrics a little more difficult to roll with.
The songs mentioned above, which are more approachable musically, are also stronger lyrically, with the given definition of “stronger” being “less disjointed and more grounded for the listener.” The track “Handyman” has the lines: “I’m not brittle / I’m just a little / scared of your temperament / I’m not brittle / I’m just a little / scared of my government / I’m not brittle / head hurts a little / staring up overhead / I’m not brittle / I’m just a riddle / born of white, blue, and red,” which show a more blatant, politically-attuned sense than has been present in much of AWOLNATION’s discography.
Midway through the album, “Jealous Buffoon” has an almost Timberlake-like sound with lines like “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to your body / used to your body / cruising your body / I don’t think I’ll ever get used to your body / I’m just a jealous buffoon.” Then, a few tracks later, “Table for One,” is a lovely alt rock track with particularly narrative lyrics for an AWOLNATION song: “Look at the pavement / our initials barely fit / I used an old nail / while you kept the night lit / see I don’t like this / I think I might just / kick the dramatics / so watch out / ‘cause I don’t want you to leave / I want to tell you good dreams.”
Overall, Here Come the Runts is an evolution for AWOLNATION that takes some risks – some of which pan out more successfully than others – and could be a little more cohesive, but has many solid tracks.