Music Blogs - Blogged Blog Directory Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Run Dan Run: "Basic Mechanics"

I typically try to start each review with a clever story or reminiscence that somehow ties into the album that I happen to be reviewing.  And as I sat here, staring at a blinking cursor for the last 10 minutes or so, I realized that I might have met my match with this one.  So let's just get to it, shall we?

Run Dan Run is an indie pop/rock quartet from Charleston, South Carolina, fronted by Dan McCurry.  On the band's debut album, Basic Mechanics, the group does an impressive job of displaying their wide range of talent and influences.  Everybody from The Postal Service to Broken Social Scene gets evoked in some way or another over the course of the album, but the band never submits to pigeonholing - always changing directions and moods unexpectedly.  McCurry, himself, is the brains behind the operation; taking over most of the writing and singing duties.  His voice is shaky and fragile, yet oddly compelling in an Emil Svanangen/Adrian Jewett type of way.  And though many will undoubtedly complain about his vocal flaws, his earnestness gives these songs a weight that they would lack otherwise.

Of course, being a massive fan of The Postal Service, my favorite song on the album is easily "Your Name Escapes Me," though the fact that it sounds more polished and complete than any other song can't hurt either.  Electronic drums and what sounds like a distorted Rhodes piano are the perfect accompaniment to McCurry's catchy chorus ("It's talk talk/It's touch touch/I don't mean/you don't mean/your name escapes me").  The band even nailed the whole male-female harmonies in perfect Postal Service fashion.  I could listen to this one for hours.  Likewise, another favorite has to be the brilliant, "Science," which brings back that same piano and a few electronic specks to keep things interesting.  It is from this song that the album gets its namesake ("Let's talk science/basic mechanics"), though my understanding of the lyrical content ends there due to my personal avoidance of all science classes in college.

Again, the most impressive aspect of Basic Mechanics is the band's ability to create from a widely diverse musical palette.  The jazzy sounds of "Stop Sign" are completely different from the sheer minimalism of "Points of Departure," and were it not for McCurry's recognizable pipes, I probably wouldn't recognize it as the same band.  But traversing such different musical landscapes has its downfalls as well.  Not everyone is a fan of The Postal Service, and I particularly am not a huge Broken Social Scene admirer.  As such, the noise-fest that is "The Setup:The Blackout" has absolutely zero appeal to me.  McCurry's vocals spend most of the song buried under layers and layers of instruments that could use a volume adjustment, leaving me completely unimpressed.

For a first effort from a band that's only been together for less than two years, Basic Mechanics is pretty damn impressive.  Songs like the epic ballad (if there ever were such a thing), "Multi-Colored Lights" and the aforementioned "Your Name Escapes Me" clearly display a band with enough talent to cause quite a stir in the coming years.  The trick now is finding what works and what doesn't from this diverse collection and focusing the attention on fleshing out the good while trowing out the bad.  Let's face it, "mix-tape" bands like Run Dan Run are great for an album or two, but the great ones are the groups that can pick a specific style and then evolve and develop that over the years.  With Basic Mechanics, Dan McCurry and Co. have laid the groundwork.  Now all they have to do is start building.

Key Tracks:
1. "Multi-Colored Lights"
2. "Science"
3. "Stop Sign"
4. "Your Name Escapes Me"
5. "Points of Departure"

7 out of 10 Stars

No comments: