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Running - "Wake Up Applauding" | Album Review

by Kelly Johnson

As a band or musical group, maintaining an air of mystery or a low profile is near impossible in our current climate. It’s almost guaranteed that you can suss out a Facebook, Bandcamp, Tumblr or web site to find interviews, music and show listings for just about any active project. The current dissemination of information to a general audience relies almost exclusively on this model. To exist outside of this framework requires effort- effort that suggests a contrarian or alternative viewpoint. The Chicago band Running exist within that contrarian universe.

No Facebook. No Tumblr. No Bandcamp. No web site (at least that I can find; they used to employ a ridiculously out-of-date free web site for show listings but it seems to be absent these days). A couple of short and vague interviews will come up in a Google search. If you find out about Running it’s because you, or someone you know, saw them play live. If you look them up afterwards and don’t happen to enjoy their brand of scorched earth noise-punk well, fuck you. You found them. They aren’t shoving anything in your face. 

It’s that devil-may-care attitude that fans are drawn to and what makes Wake Up Applauding such a fun listen. Anyone familiar with Running’s previous albums Asshole Savant or the first full-length for Castle Face, Vaguely Ethnic knows just what to expect on this one, too. Rhythms still pummel, guitars still stay on 10 and reverbed-out vocals still remain unintelligible.  For maximum effect, it’s best to take the medicine on Wake Up Applauding as one big gulp rather than tiny sips.

There are a few standout moments within the constant drub of the album. There are two short interludes (that would be ‘Interlude A’ and ‘Interlude B’) that consist solely of synth drone. Their placement in the track listing manages to break up the deliberateness of Running’s attack. It’s a false safety however, as the pandemonium is immediately resumed on the subsequent tracks. On my first listen, I did a literal LOL after ‘We Never Close’ came slicing right back in after ‘Interlude A.’ The song ‘Ghost Bag’ manages to combine everything that is great about the band into 4 and half minutes. After an abrupt tempo switch half way through the song, the band pound on a single note while the guitar does its trademark siren squeal. Just when you’ve assumed they’ll ride it out until the end of the track, everything’s pulled out once again as Running locks back into the riff they set forth at the outset.

It’s those subtle variations that the band is able to pull off on Wake Up Applauding that prevent it from being a completely directionless mess. Although, maybe they’d prefer it to be a mess. It’s hard to say, and luckily, we won’t be getting any explanation from them.