Words About Music
Roomrunner “Ideal Cities”
At least once a year, a band comes around and attempts to recreate, redefine, or recapture the garage rock/grunge/lo-fi/whatever-you-wanna-call-it sound. Some bands do a very good job of doing so. The White Stripes were, during their time, one of the most successful and critically acclaimed rock bands in the world. The Strokes’ “Is This It” is consistently called one of the best albums of the 2000s, and rightfully so. Japandroids tour internationally and generate critical acclaim after two phenomenally upbeat albums. But here, we’ve got a band that take grunge and garage rock to strange new territory, that brings to mind some of Nirvana’s strangest earlier songs.
Roomrunner is a 4-piece that formed in Baltimore in 2010, and “Ideal Cities” is the first album. They’ve generated buzz from a critically acclaimed EP, a few SXSW performances, as well as touring with Marnie Stern. They’ve gotten hype from websites such as SPIN, Stereogum, and Pitchfork, and for pretty good reason. Roomrunner make odd, care-free lo-fi grunge for people who think Metz play too fast. And that’s not to say Roomrunner aren’t an energetic band; energy is certainly something they possess. As much as Roomrunner can sound like Nirvana, they have the ethos of Pavement. They make weird music and play as if they don’t have a care in the world. And they probably don’t.
If the first few songs on the album aren’t fast enough or heavy enough or “feedback”y enough for you, then wait till you get to “Weird,” the 5th track. It’s bombastic, insane, heavy, and sounds like someone injected Nirvana’s “Bleach” with liquid Kyuss.
With every garage rock/grunge-revivalist act that comes around, there’s almost always a downside. These bands and albums usually lack a certain creativity that is needed to make these albums interesting. It’s part of the reason The Hives are more of a cult-favorite act than a critically-adored garage rock act. Fortunately, the members of Roomrunner seem to have many tricks up their sleeves, which should and do distract from the obvious Nirvana comparison.
This album has many good qualities, don’t get me wrong, but for some reason it starts to feel sort of stale by the album’s end, and leaves something of a funny taste in my mouth. Perhaps “Ideal Cities” is so ahead of its time that I cannot quite understand it yet, but for now, I only see quite a bit of potential that was not fully realized. I still found myself enjoying the album, and I will eagerly await whatever the band puts out next. I can only hope they continue to expand on their sound in the future.
SCORE – 7.7
FAVORITE TRACKS – Bait Car, Weird, Apse