It has been four years since Awolnation’s first album and Run is, conforming the stereotype, a difficult second album; Awolnation have moved away from Megalithic Symphony’s catchiness and towards more challenging, darker elements. There is no “Sail”, no “Burn It Down” or “Jump On My Shoulders” on this album, and there is unlikely to be a single which storms the charts.
Run’s best characteristic is its completeness. Awolnation have managed to create a coherent body of music which feels as though it ought not ever be listened to in any sequence than from start to finish, over and over again. With recurring motifs punctuating the tracks, the band seem as though they were acutely aware of creating something which was complete – not just a few singles and a block of filler between.
If you listen to nothing else this week, “Fat Face” is one to hear. “Fat Face” is the soundtrack to falling apart on the bathroom floor, to waking up from a good dream and realising your life is still as screwed up as it was before bedtime; with nostalgic longing, self-hatred and a cheery introduction, “Fat Face” is beautiful.
There is a tension between cheerful, upbeat moments and a dark violence throughout the whole album. Aaron Bruno’s singing moves from giddy with a chanted excitement (“Lie Love Live Love”), through to the slower, more reflective (“Headrest for My Soul”, “Holy Roller”), and into a disturbing anger as he repeatedly screams “fuck your ghost!” through a distorted, intentionally glitched mix (“Like People, Like Plastic”).
Considering its bookends, both “Run” and “Drinking Lightning”, could sum up the whole album. With the chanting, overdriven guitar, fast-paced electronic beats and cascading car-crash breakdown “Run” is everything disturbing about the album. In contrast, “Drinking Lightning” has the nostalgia, heartache and anaesthetised guilt which counterpoints the mania of “Run”.