Worth a Thousand Words: Here Come the Runts by AWOLNATION
Here Come the Runts by AWOLNATION:
Here Come the Hits
Released: February 2, 2018
Label: Red Bull Records
When most artists decide to go their own way and set out to create a solo career, many people, including the artist themselves, must have mixed feelings: fear, doubt, excitement, maybe even some anger. Aaron Bruno, the artist behind AWOLNATION, took that leap back in 2011, and hasn’t looked back since. From his band’s first record, Megalithic Symphony, to 2018’s Here Come the Runts, Bruno has stood on his own, proving that the path of a solo career isn’t always a bad one.
Here Come the Runts, much like the two other albums in AWOLNATION’s discography, has found a balance between breakneck guitar riffs, pounding drums, and soaring vocals once again. While this album certainly screams right out of the gate, it finds its pace towards the end, and eases into the last leg of its race nice and smooth.
Right off the bat, this album toys with you. Opening with the title track,
“Here Come the Runts,” the song goes through 3 different tempo changes alone, giving us just a taste of the range that AWOLNATION has and will continue to demonstrate to us over the course of this record.
The next few tracks make up my favorite part of this album. Beginning with “Passion,” Aaron Bruno starts ramping up the spirit before breaking the beat down again, leading into “Sound Witness System,” my favorite track on this record. I love the transition between those two tracks; it’s a smooth downshift in gears that is completed well. The lyrical style of this track is different from Bruno’s previous work, wherein he adopts this hip-hop/rap-esque style of speaking, not unlike some of the work that Jack White displayed on Boarding House Reach, although it’s much more successfully used in AWOLNATION’s attempt, in my humble opinion.
The latter half of this album showcases the more sensitive side to AWOLNATION; their M.O. isn’t just heavy bass lines and soaring guitar solos. “Handyman” is a heartfelt ode to self-help and betterment. Realizing that he is flawed, our singer wishes to do right by the one whom he cares about and fix what’s gone wrong, if only he could. Call it a case of ‘nature vs. nurture,’ but the singer feels that being his father’s son makes him a sinner, and that he can’t change. The stereotypical handyman is good at everything, particularly fixing things, a sentiment that he’s wishing to apply to his own life, a noble cause if any.
Another slower track with a lot of meaning behind it is “Table for One. “Abandonment is a real and terrifying scenario to face, even more so for those that have found celebrity. If I could venture a guess, Aaron may be referencing something that happened in his own past, perhaps in the form of being stood up on a date, hence the title. Or, it could be in reference to the life of a rocker on the road; imagine being surrounded by millions of people, only to be alone in the spotlight in the end. If one doesn’t have any contemporaries either, it’s entirely possible to feel totally alone at the top.
Here Come the Runts at times feel like an album that the band used as reason to jam out, (see “Seven Sticks of Dynamite” or “The Buffoon”), and at other points it feels like some of the most thoughtful work to come out of this band yet. While their earlier work could at times possibly cross over into the hard rock genre, AWOLNATION has found a good balance between the sinister and sincere on Here Come the Runts. While some of the hallmarks of all good AWOLNATION tracks are present on this record, from the hoarse, sometimes screaming, sometimes singing style that Aaron Bruno has trademarked, to fuzzy guitar parts, there is a good part of this record that feels new. Innovation is good, and any good band needs to find a way to capitalize on the sound that made them famous without turning out work that is too similar to previous endeavors (I’m looking at your last few albums here, Imagine Dragons.)
On this record, their junior attempt, I feel that AWOLNATION has found a new sound, while also holding true to their original principles. Full of passion, sweet as molasses, and explosive like several sticks of dynamite, Here Come the Runts is another fine addition to AWOLNATION’s dominion.
The Final Cut:
Favorite Track: “Sound Witness System”
Ratings: (Based on a scale from 1 to 10, 0 – Hated It, 1 – Extremely Disliked, 2 – Greatly Disliked, 3 – Moderately Disliked, 4 – Slightly Disliked, 5 – Neutral, 6 – Slightly Enjoyed, 7 – Moderately Enjoyed, 8 – Greatly Enjoyed, 9 – Extremely Enjoyed, 10 – Loved It)
Length: 10, Rolling in at just over 46 minutes, I didn’t feel like this record was dragging on, nor did it feel too short. I can easily see myself, replaying this record the whole way through without getting burnt out or skipping around in the track listing too much.
Mixing: 10, In my opinion, the whole album sounds great to me, back to front without any major issues; the highs sound great, and the lows rumble in just the right way.
Lyrical Composition: 7, While there is some complexity to most of the tracks, some selections feature overused repetition of verses and phrases while lacking the depth I’m used to with some of their other work.
Organizational Flow: 9, Almost every track feels like it belongs here, with “The Buffoon” being the only one that feels out of place, if only slightly. The album has good pacing, building up when appropriate, slowing down when needed, and crescendoing once again for a strong finish.
Overall “Sound”: 8, This album is another good addition to AWOLNATION’s catalog; it feels different enough from the band’s other work to stand on its own while drawing from the elements utilized in previous works to create a successful piece. I’m excited to see if the band will continue down this path for their next album or try something different again.
Total Rating: 8.8/10
*Updated 12/15/18 to update my rating scale*