Listening to Aaron Bruno work is like watching a man trying to juggle sharks while balancing a roaring chainsaw on his head, on the back of an angry rhinoceros. He’s all over the goddamn place… It could be madness, it could also be genius, but then, it could just be the ADD.
AwolNation captured the ears of the musical world with their debut album “Megalithic Symphony” and the monstrously successful “Sail” –not only was it very very good but it also arrived at the very right time. In 2014 we sat around holding our breath and waiting for Bruno’s next offering of synth-pop virtuosity, another helping of dark and stormy electro-rock power – we wanted more Sail – but in 2014 it never came, and we had to wait a little more.
Aaron Bruno was sitting in a strange predicament – does AwolNation deliver another album of Sail‘s – or do they continue where their first album left off and delve a little deeper into those weird waters Megalithic Symphony had begun to drag us into?
Run finally arrived, and skipping through every single track we quickly – in a horrifying slow-burning sobering manner – realized that they had decided on the latter. There was no Sail here, there was no anguished cry, soaring through the synth and tearing at every part of us. There was nothing and we were empty. We felt cold and alone, nothing mattered anymore. The boat had sunk now, and some bastard had made off with all the life-rafts and jackets.
Fuck, I thought, sitting back. Crawling Jesus, what is this babbling, restless noise? It’s all over the goddamn place. It didn’t make any sense, and I ignored its existence for a week. I don’t have ADD – but listening to Run made me feel like I did. I didn’t like it. It leaves you with the same kind of feeling you get when you see a man in a dress or a woman with a beard. It’s like watching one of those art films you feel obligated to like, but for the love of all that is good and sacred, it doesn’t make sense and you just don’t have the stomach to poke around in all that mess.
But Run refused to leave me. Aaron Bruno has a certain way of writing and singing, a way that has a nursery rhyme kind of quality and magic to it, and every song is like a splinter in the brain. The deepest splinter was called Track 13 – “Like People, Like Plastic” – and it was this ungodly, beautiful, relentless splinter that brought me back to Run for what I thought would be One Last Listen.
The album ultimately suffers from a lack of cohesion, at times like a 3-legged fox chasing rabbits, at times like Trent Reznor going through an identity crisis – but there are moments in the dark where the lightbulb flickers, swaying around the room, and you can see what they are trying to accomplish. At worst, it’s a mess, like a pianist trying to play with his elbows – and at best it is ambitious, even if overly so. There are certain bands out there, like Florence and the Machine or The National or Muse that seem to do no wrong, no matter how much they may experiment or change. They’re not for everybody, but they are consistently listenable. I was hoping AwolNation would be one of these bands, and perhaps the biggest mistake in all of this was expectation – that damning thing.
Expectation is the root of all heartache – Bill Shakespeare said that.
I spent the entire album waiting for something that wasn’t going to happen, and once I realized this – I slowly started to understand Run a little better. Every song hints at something approaching brilliance. There are layers upon layers of sounds and ideas, but there never seems to be any concrete intention or goal.
Run will make you insane, and then it will make your ears happy, and then it will make you want to pull your hair out and send Aaron Bruno some strongly worded hatemail – but sooner or later you will go back to it, because you just can’t get rid of those splinters, no matter how much you tug and scratch.
SCORE : 3/5
Peace begins when expectation ends – that’s another quote from somebody whose name I can’t remember. Is it another Megalithic Symphony? No. Is it better? No… but it is an expansion, in a sort of “This is my special cousin, Run,” kind of way. There is a long line of musical prodigies who have anchored their ambitions in that dark and wild ocean of emotion. Aaron Bruno doesn’t have that anchor – but it is commendable that he steered his ship into the maelstrom and attempted it anyway. What we are left with is more of a technical accomplishment than a creative one. The more you listen, the more of those layers you tear away – the more soul you find. Maybe, a long time from now – this album will be hailed as a work of genius, but for now, for me, it’s just a little too scattered.
The ADD is alive and kicking, but maybe it’s time for a little medication.
BEST TRACK : Windows is about as close to Sail as you’re going to get, and the titular single Run is gloriously fierce and melodic – all at the same time. The energy, rhythms and sounds are all amazing, and Bruno’s vocals are as astounding as you would expect – there’s that word again. All of the songs are good, but none of them are spectacular. At a certain point in nearly every song you’re going to feel like you’re being pulled into all four corners by wild and untamed horses. Maybe that’s where the album cover comes from. In the end – it’s “Like People, Like Plastic” which brought me back, and continues to do so. With all it’s stumbling and flailing about, Run suffers, but there are moments here – lightbulb moments – which give me hope for their future.