Sidekicks – Runners In The Nerved World Review

Posted: by Colin



Runners in the Nerved World demonstrates that The Sidekicks are a vastly different outfit than the one that was previously categorized by their abrasive, soaring songs like “Grace” from 2012’s Awkward Breeds, or “Almost the Same” off of their sophomore full-length Weight of Air. Take for example the album’s introductory song; “Hell is Warm”, which features a layered, evasive forty-second preface, followed by relaxed guitars that fuel the song for the greater portion of the next two plus minutes. Not to be confused for a lack of energy, or lethargic condition, Runners in the Nerved World features a mellowed out, reserved state allowing the band to journey into an increasingly rhythmic style, accented by lyrics and vocals that are more experimental and introspective than records past.

Runners starts off methodical and organized. Intended or not, the first half of the album is decidedly louder and more direct.  The instrumentals are blissfully ignorant of the sincere issues vocalist Steve Ciolek addresses. The backing music could be characterized by moderately paced, ringing, and echoing guitars, faint bass lines, and corresponding drum patterns accentuating the band’s musicianship. Ciolek is forthright in confronting consumerism and technology, reflecting upon codependence, and the realization of unrecoverable lost time.           

The universality of the subject matter in Runners is best summarized when Ciolek breaks the fourth wall, and delivers earnest, harrowing lyrics (stylistically reminiscent of The Hotelier’s Home, Like Noplace Is There) at the end of “The Kid Who Broke His Wrist” or the admittance of anxiety found in “Satellite Words and Me”. Despite this, the theatrics during “Blissfield, MI” where “it burns” and the recurring style of songwriting found throughout the album has the potential to deter some listeners.

The strongest points on the album come in the form of “Deer” and “Century Schoolbook Grown-Ups”. Containing the fundamental aspects of previous Sidekicks’ albums (instrumentally motivated songs guided by Ciolek’s distinct, yet smooth vocals) with a Runners twist, while leaving some of the gloss behind, the pair of songs strike a balance between the memorable and repetitive. It’s best summed up in “Century Schoolbook Grown-Ups” when Ciolek whispers, “Every winter, every winter, I’ll be licking my wounds” – a confrontation alluding to feeling caged, and helpless in the middle of a stiff Midwestern winter. Therefore, being forced to speculate on the consequences of one’s actions, and as the music grows heavier throughout the remaining couple minutes of the song, you can only help to notice a feeling of guilt engrained within it.

Runners In the Nerved World is a leap forward in terms of both songwriting and overall performance. Yet, at points the record does feel hollow and stagnant, as there’s no cathartic release of emotion that we’ve seen previously from the Sidekicks (1940’s Fighter Jet, anyone?). Despite this, the record is tightly sewn together in a story-like fashion that forces you to listen to it full and through. The focused emphasis on fragility, and tranquility throughout the record reminds me of the how some of my all time favorite albums were composed. Runners In The Nerved World might not be exactly what you expected from the Clevelanders, but it’s a rainy day record that will grow on you, as you will find and learn to appreciate the tiny subtleties hidden throughout the course of the album.

– Colin