“Here Come the Runts” is the third studio album released by AWOLNATION and is by far the most unplugged work the synth-rock outfit has produced yet. The multi-instrumentalist and heartbeat of AWOLNATION, Aaron Bruno, has become synonymous with gushing synth samples and waves of electronic sound but “Here Comes the Runts” strives to stay grounded in the analog, and for the most part, it achieves that.
In an interview with Red Bull, Bruno admits that the album, recorded in his LA-based home studio, is “influenced by Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A.'” Between sweeping vocal hooks that teeter on theatrical, and the lyrical satire throughout, the connection between Bruno and “The Boss” is evident.
The title track, “Here Come the Runts,” is in line with Bruno’s iconically eclectic style. The song refuses to settle into one consistent groove, beginning as a pop-rock anthem before accelerating into something a little more soft-grunge. The song “Passion” is equally manic and resembles music produced during that short span of time when punk and pop had crossed paths.
“Handyman” begins soft-spoken but slips into a subdued groove early on. In a mild melancholia Bruno sings, “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.” In one of the more doleful tracks, Bruno recalls writing another’s name in wet cement as he now reserves a “Table for One.” AWOLNATION resembles an emotionally bold version of its earlier self here, especially when Bruno shouts, dejected and desperate, “I don’t want you to leave. I don’t want you to leave.”
“Here Comes the Runts” has escaped the corner that AWOLNATION had begun to back itself into. From its dependence on rock tropes, it’s obvious Bruno was nostalgic for an era where dance rock and pop-ballads governed the radio charts. By swapping out digital samples for an ensemble, the former synth-purists have been able to diversify there sound, making this album their most sonically captivating to date. While the album is not long by any stretch, it does feels “fluffed up” at times by filler tracks like “Cannonball” or the 30 second cut, “A Little Luck and a Couple of Dogs.” Overall, “Here Comes the Runts” is sleek and catchy and promises an unexpected step forward for AWOLNATION. Listen to the thing on Spotify or buy it on the band’s page.