Local pop-punk outfit Running on E gets right to the heart of the matter. “Don’t waste away, don’t burn away the light that I refused,” sings vocalist Nick Norton in the urgent opening notes of “Vagrants and Vagabonds.” That song, the lead-off to the band’s new release, Colors Run, is brisk and charged with an energy and emotional delivery that continues throughout the nine crushing tracks.
“One Bad Day” is more melodic but still gallops at full speed through crashing percussion (Nigel Ormsby, who seems to approach his kit like doing battle) and guitar duels (Tom Burns and John Hansen) of jagged snarls and sinewy high notes. “Maybe it’s a sign that you should shut your mouth and open your eyes,” Norton sings at one crescendo — a line that aptly sums up the album’s simultaneous insouciance and exactness.
“The Man, The Myth, The Legend” begins with a low thrum and opens into a metallic churn of strings. It’s a song that builds and builds, propelling itself along with the muscular lilt of three-quarter time. The instrumental break, brief but fierce, shares roots as much with Celt-rock as with metal.
The title song, a slam dance of sonic layers and power chords, ups the album’s ante. Here, the cumulative energy and requisite kilowatts fuel a juggernaut of angst and pure emotion. “We can’t take this world with us, but we can burn it down,” insists the hook. Throaty vocalizations melt into screaming guitar runs while the percussion drives the song to its ultimate conclusion.
If there is a complaint to be registered, it’s that the tracks don’t end so much as flow one into the next. There’s certain logic to that approach — Running on E (like Tom Petty) clearly won’t back down. In fact, in a cage fight, my money would be on the local band to take Petty in the first round. But when it comes to music of this level of intensity, a five- or ten-second breather between tracks would serve both as a palate cleanser and an underscore of just how voracious these songs are. “Silence has the loudest voice,” and all.
“I Think I’m” doesn’t bring any quiet moments, but there is a feeling of uplift. The vocal strives upward and the guitars swirl brightly through a maelstrom of percussion. There is, too, a sense of dynamics even in the midst of this tour de force. Drums slow to half-time at the bridge and the other instruments drop away, blazing a clear path for the singer.
The opening of “But Wait, There’s More!” is a shift of mood and pacing. Norton’s voice, low and menacing, is accompanied only by a strummed guitar. The song is nocturnal and immediate. Lyrics like “Sinners sin while lovers bleed as bottom feeders all convene to drink their wine” impart a dark foreboding. “Hours,” too, exists in that dimly lit world, though this song shimmers with cymbals and propulsive bass notes. And “Copacetic,” sandwiched between those two tracks, twitches and writhes with Running on E’s trademark electrified attack.
Final offering “My Bright Eyes” ends much as the album began — with fist-pumping, anthemic lyrics and high-octane musicianship. Need to shake off the stresses of the week? This is the song that will exorcise all frustrations, anxieties, misgivings and cases of the blues. Shake it off, no dance particular skills are required. Colors Run demands little of its listeners — Running on E provides not only the soundtrack but the energetic impetus. Just crank it up and go.