When it comes to the polarizing nature of noise, it can be difficult converting non-believers. It definitely takes keen senses to look beyond the sweaty mosh pits– where beers are thrown and fists tend to fly– and see something worth hearing. Even if you aren’t up to the task, you’ll find much to appreciate on Running’s new record, Vaguely Ethnic. The Chicago band have been bringing the aggressive, angsty noise for a couple of years now, but are just now beginning to perfect their contentious craft.
With an essentially un-Googleable name and no Facebook, Twitter, or similar online presence– just a plain, vaguely detailed website lurking anonymously on the outskirts of the internet– it’s obvious that Running take their music very seriously. But on Vaguely Ethnic, cryptic track titles like “Oo0o Oo0O Oo0oOo,” or the cheeky “This is a You Problem,” show that the band still have a sense of humor (their 2012 EP was titled Asshole Savant, after all). Though their lyrics are basically unintelligible, Running still sound more clever than a noisey punk band probably should be; like humorous hardcore with a spiky twist. We really don’t know much about them, but their music says it all.
From start to finish, Vaguely Ethnic is a ride that shows no signs of slowing down or stopping. “Thanks for the Input” surfs the turbulent wave of a raw punk riff, eventually ending in a sweet, tinnitus-inducing blaze. The ominous garage-rock beat and quick “woos!” of “Raven’s Ca$H” seem to recall a darker, angrier Thee Oh Sees. “Controversial PR” could be the album’s screechiest, scratchiest cut, but probably also its most fun. Without ever skimping on speed or aggression, Vaguely Ethnic is slightly melancholy in tone, with perfect pacing, sharp yet steady riffs, and drums that transition quickly from powerful to foreboding; it’s a little less moshing, a little more haunting, but awesome no matter which side you’re on.
For someone who hates noise– or just doesn’t get it– my advice would be to ingest records like Vaguely Ethnic piece-by-piece. The music Running make isn’t all about angry buzzing and scuzzing into oblivion (at least not all of it). If you listen carefully, there are sophisticated highs and lows and clear structure, plus a knack for making bad things sound really good. When peeled back layer-by-layer, the audio excellence of Running becomes easy to understand, and the rest is just noise.