While punk rock has been enjoying an unexpected (and much appreciated) renaissance, Roomrunner have been sharpening their grip on a similarly nostalgic genre: grunge. Ideal Cities may be the Baltimore band’s debut, but Roomrunner are no newcomers to the scene. All members are active mainstays of their local DIY community, including frontman Denny Bowen, who’s formerly played in Yukon, Double Dagger, and The Dan Deacon Ensemble. Several months ago, the band gifted us the preview of “Bait Car,” Ideal Cities’ slicing-and-dicing opening number. Obvious early-90s grunge band references aside– you know which one I’m talking about, and so do they– the rest of the tracks on Ideal Cities happen to measure up quite nicely as a welcome re-introduction to some familiar, recently forgotten noise.
Roomrunner seem to live by a strict ideology of loud, louder, and loudest. Each track on Ideal Cities seems to fall somewhere along this simplistic spectrum. Having said that, the sounds themselves aren’t really all that simple; from the “wake me, take me away” battle cry of “Bait Car” to those very last moments of drippy scuzz on closer “Snac Error,” Ideal Cities is just quick and concise enough to keep us interested the whole way through. Scratchy riffs, aggressive hooks, and discordant distortions abound on tracks like “Bowlth” and the melodic mind-fuck of aptly titled single “Weird.” On the penultimate “Apse,” the band take bold, jaunty strides, a move that feels all-too welcome towards the end of a collection that has the tendency to mesh together into one muddled and excellent, but still similar-sounding mess.
Despite their understandable hesitation at being labeled “that band that sounds like Nirvana,” Roomrunner clearly have a niche, and it’s working for them. Luckily, Ideal Cities proves that it doesn’t have to be limiting. Roomrunner scurry, thrash, and soar all over their grimy gem of a debut, leaving their listeners exhausted, thoroughly throttled, and yes, wanting more.
3.5 / 5 bars