Deficit of Dreams
Central Florida’s RunnAmuckS have long seemed gimmicky: their t-shirts and record covers are shamelessly emblazoned with copyright protected comic book characters, the group went out of their way to cut one release at Sun Studios (hallowed home of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, et al), and once upon a time they (allegedly) tossed cat feces at a club owner with whom they reached an impasse. Of course, none of this really reflects on the RunnAmuckS music, previously a fierce, intimidating, and fun punk/metal hybrid. One could look past the blatant theft of Marvel hero Steve Rogers when the jams were as searing as those on 2001’s On The Brink or 2003’s Of A Different Breed.
Now, a decade-plus after their formation, the ‘Mucks have calmed things down for a new genre their calling “panic pop.” While the lyrics appear to carry more bitterness and frustration than blank fear, the rocky rumblings behind singer Josh Dobbs’ throaty half-whispers certainly pop in more places than not (the ballad “Don’t Cry For Me” opens with piano work worthy of a slot in the “American Idol” stratosphere). Unfortunately, bland songwriting and flat production mar Deficit of Dreams, stalling a band that once had no issue with bite or charisma. Furthermore, Dobbs paints himself into various melodic corners from which he can’t jump free. It is painfully disappointing to see the wheels come off like this, but not all sneering rockers are meant to soften up.
The RunnAmuckS need to get back to their roots—by which I mean they should scoop up some kitty poop with their bare hands at the next available opportunity. Also, do they know Steve Rogers isn’t dead anymore?
FINAL SCORE: One and a half sad Captain Americas (out of four).
Libyan Hit Squad / Round Eye
East meets west in this split LP from Florida’s Libyan Hit Squad and China’s Round Eye. The Hit Squad does our shores proud with a thick, frenetic tapestry of punk that owes as much to Mission of Burma’s emotionally-charged dissonance as it does to more aggro pavement pounders like the Descendents or Black Flag. Speaking of those heralded giants of thine famed four bars, reclusive Flag guitarist Greg Ginn makes a surprise and surprisingly good appearance with LHS on Full Circle’s math rocky title track. Ginn’s fussy, disintegrating solos are instantly recognizable but don’t distract from the ability of the lesser-known players. The Libyans are just as talented/dynamic as their apparent influences for sure, enough so that I will not disparage either them or Ginn by joking about donations to the latter’s feline rescue charities.
Jazzier in approach (they have actual brass!) but no less busy is Round Eye who hook the listener in with the coy swingin’ fun of their eponymous introductory cut. The horns this outfit employs suggest an artier, more deconstructive approach, but that could be my misinterpretation as a result of listening to too many Stooges records. Round Eye certainly could have hits in the affecting doo-wop slog “I’m So Young” or the jittery open wound “Kenting”; the real joy, however, comes when the band cuts loose on a detuned party mess like “Carne Seca.” The vocals on that sexy entry could merely be a recording of drunken revelers at a twilight rooftop shindig, but the carnal undercurrent works in any setting.
FINAL SCORE: Three and a half multi-colored dragons (out of four).