AWOLNATION Provides Much Needed Comic Relief on ‘Here Come the Runts’

Aaron Bruno knows the tense times in which we live, which is why the man behind the L.A. alt-rock band AWOLNATION recorded the band’s latest album with the intention of uplifting a melancholy public. Plus, after a discography of mostly electronic-focused music, Bruno chose to turn back to his rock n’ roll roots. All this together makes “Here Come the Runts” the perfect mix of unleashed rage and comedic lyricism.

One of the first tastes of this theme comes from “Sound Witness System,” a tune which takes to hip-hop but without the seriousness, instead evoking a quirky side through Bruno’s lyricism: “You know the position/Grinding on my troops/Trying to rile up my militia.” The singer’s individualism is all over this record. One of the singles, “Seven Sticks of Dynamite,” too uses entertaining lyrics such as “Who wants to slow dance?/To that racket down the hall.” The sonic aspects of the song take a minimalist approach with a simple rock drum beat, heavy guitar chords and a background chorus. The video, directed by Bruno, features a nice cameo from Rick Rubin — though Rubin didn’t have his fingers on the production side of things here. That silly side comes out again on “Jealous Buffoon” where Bruno yells about his inability to control his possessiveness. The song has a peculiar feel to it, walking a line between sincerity and self-deprecation. “Table For One” too sets up Bruno as a loner unable to keep his woman by his side. The trend continues on the short but effective “A Little Luck…And A Couple Dogs” where he reminds his listeners that he’s not quite as grown up as he would like to lead on. “All my friends have children/I have a couple dogs,” he sings. Speaking of kids, the single “Handyman” shows the singer’s sweet, almost childlike, side. Through an acoustic guitar during the verse he sings “I’m a sinner/finished my dinner/Now I can go outside.”

Self-admitted shortcomings aside, as a front man, Bruno is the creative voice that drives AWOL’s success. Even though he’s been the only constant in the band since its inception back in ’09, the sounds have progressed into something truly worthy of your attention. Take the driving “Tall, Tall Tale” where Bruno uses tinges of darkness for a raucous blues-driven cut alongside sinister elements of electronics. The closing track “Stop That Train” too uses a slight sense of darkness in tone, while the title track effects rage by way of metal guitar and double bass drums. If “Here Comes the Runts” tells a story, it’s one of two sides – the sad clown, or the comedy and tragedy faces. As if Bruno’s saying ‘Yes, it’s okay to laugh at yourself in times of strife. But don’t forget the evil that lurks in the shadows.’

Here Come the Runts” is available Feb. 2 on Apple Music.