Runaway Brother – “Mother” Review
Posted: by Colin
Debut full-lengths are the unequivocal wildcard of many discographies. They are critical because it is an opportunity for a large audience to obtain a first impression of a band they may have never heard beforehand. Debut albums serve as a launching pad for the careers of many young bands, and many fans (for nostalgic purposes or not) tend to associate heartfelt emotions and experiences with these records. Despite this, most bands change and experiment with their sound as they progress and mature throughout their journeys, rarely ending up where they once started – at least sonically, anyway.
Runaway Brother’s Mother (pronounced Moth-er) boldly embraces all of the challenges that a debut album presents. As fun as it is serious, Mother is an eccentric take on emo-pop, a genre still in its developmental stages featuring bands such as The Front Bottoms and Modern Baseball, each of whom have eagerly jumped into the spotlight and obtained considerable praise.
In similar style, Runaway Brother directly addresses their understanding of the world in a way that an unsuspecting listener would perceive it as a forty-minute reading of a collection of personal journal entries and poems.
Not to be confused with the aforementioned groups, Runaway Brother differentiates themselves through the use of easily distinguishable keys and experimental song writing habits, which result in a sound that is as equally Sci-Fi as it is Midwestern-Emo. The slow and dazzling “Hummingbird” and the assertive “False Halo” are a forthcoming pair of songs advising naïve individuals to beware of the circumstantial “tunnel vision” first love can create and the consequent aftermath that may result from a broken relationship. Not surprisingly, the angst filled “False Halo” features the album’s stand out chorus where vocalist Jacob Lee agonizingly harmonizes a plea for hospitality “I won’t stay long, I swear. Can I stay somewhere, anywhere? I don’t care!”
Fundamentally, part of the aurora of Mother is that each song is immensely different than the song before it. The result is a trial and error system – despite the fact that you may not enjoy all eleven songs as much as a couple of the stand out tracks within the LP, it’s a small price to pay to avoid a safe or boring album. Without this experimentation, the album’s undeniably glorious farewell would not have been possible.
A clever play on words, closer “Youniverse” is a seven minute long narrative connecting the relationship between individuals and space, and how the two interact in cohesion, and sometimes, in opposition. Ultimately, the song addresses how each person has a role to play in the ever expanding and “all encompassing” universe. The insight is found early on in the song as Lee’s fascination and awe comes alive in the rhetorical line “Hey you, can you hear me? Hey you, it’s just the universe and me. Hey you, all encompassing, hey you, it’s just the universe me.” Musically, “Youniverse” encapsulates the sound of the album as a whole, a task that any excellent closing song should be up to. Choppy but sensible changes of pace fit into the song through the use of heavy lead guitars and ringing keys, which flow over Lee’s vocals as he transitions from screaming to whispering in a matter of seconds.
Runaway Brother’s debut full-length album floats between structure and anarchy. It’s this type of designed chaos that will dazzle most listeners, but exhaust some of those who are unsuspecting. The album pushes the notions and boundaries of what cohesive indie or alternative music should sound like. The strange but fantastically executed verses that end up feeling more like a couple of band mates jamming out in a room combined with the big, hooked-filled choruses throughout Mother make the album one of the most interesting things you will listen to all year.
P.S. Henderson interviewed Runaway Brother while they were in the studio recording Mother. If you want to learn more about the band or the recording process click here to watch!