Runaround is the third release I’ve heard from Rivers Edge, and besides feeling like a nice metaphoric album title for the band’s style – accessible DIY pop punk with a lot of unexpected turns – it also feels like the band is really coming into their own. In the past I’ve observed a “sum of the parts” vibe, sharing elements with bands like Future Virgins, which feature some of the same members.
This time the vocal tradeoffs are less stark. The band utilizes multiple singers, but the songs feel more cohesive between those switch-offs. In fact, the transitions all feel seamless and cohesive, without that samey element that can doom a punk band. It has variety, but it makes sense together.
The vocals throughout are somewhat shout-y. There’s an ear for melody, but it’s rough and coarse, much like the chords and rhythms that accompany it. The band effectively balances punchy crescendo, driving percussion, and harmony in an effective balance that gives a powerful, angry energy that’s still relatable and a little stream-of-consciousness. It’s melodic, but not quite singalong, with arrangements that feel carefully arranged to subtly convey different emotions.
Around the midway point, it gets a touch too cute for me on the eponymous track “The Runaround,” which has a 1980s new wave melodic slow jam vibe that’s whitewashed in production to the effect of a cassette being eaten by the player. I like what I imagine the song is at its core, but the effect kind of rips apart that soothing melodic interlude with something more like an interruption. While I’m listening to this cassette release on mp3, it does effectively give that end-of-side feel before the action begins anew with “Great Loss.” The band renews this tone on “Reprise” later, which has a more powerful change-of-pace effect.
The defining element of Runaround is Rivers Edge’s ability to mix up the tempo without changing the tone. The tunes alternate between a reminiscent, longing tone and a burn-it-all down urgency. While they sound like opposites on paper, on tape it’s a perfect symbiosis, accomplished in part through a fuzzy but powerful production reminiscent of 1980s DIY classics.
7.5 / 10
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