We’ve recently re-visited the music of Awolnation and after much deliberation can still only best describe it with three letters: WTF! If Jack Nicklaus took up pigeon racing in his retirement, even he couldn’t locate a suitable pigeon hole in which to shelve this one-of-a-kind artist.
It’s worth noting that this LA musician had been punted to us in the early parts of 2010 by eager PR agents and we weren’t initially swept up by his work, as each song taken in it’s solo context loses some of the overall magic. We were recently sent his new video for the track, Sail, and it once again made us shine our torches onto the full EP, Back From Earth, that had initially arrived last summer. With music such as his it is no surprise that a second listen earned him today’s post, as it’s actually deceptively rewarding.
There’s a very unusual mixture on show here, with abrasive, heavy beats, thumped synths and dirty electro punches. The whole thing shifts around like a drunk driver, with Aaron Bruno’s vocals occasionally shouting like The Agitator‘s yelping blues, before swallowing gravel like Andrew WK (Burn It Down). It doesn’t rest there either, as he even tries switching his hand to rapping (MF), before getting all sexual on us by singing to us with a bit of smooth, melodic r&b (Guilty Filthy Soul)! WTF indeed.
All of this is in the space of just a five track EP! Music this ridiculously schizophrenic will definitely switch people off, as he comes across as a jack of all trades and master of none. Perhaps this is the residual issues of a couple of failed attempts at making it in bands, after the four piece outfit, Under The Influence Of Giants, or the three piece, Home Town Heroes? That might prove to be the arc in this artist’s story, as he’s hopped around as much as his music, but before it’s written off completely we think it’s worth trying to look at the tone in which we think the EP should be taken, as there’s an attitude that’s also on show here and it’s switch from stunning melody, to abrasive hook, is pretty extraordinary.
Take the rapping on MF for example, as upon first glance it verges on the simple and ridiculous “motherfucker are you listening to me, motherfucker are you moving to the beat, motherfucker time to take it to the streets“, but when it’s delivered by an artist who clearly isn’t weighed down by the usual constraints of seriousness, much in the same way The Streets, or the early Beastie Boys were, it’s managed somewhat perfectly. It continues with Guilty Filthy Soul, where he does a Beck, circa Midnight Vultures, and shows us his sexual groove, with handclaps and flicked guitars. Like Beck it’s just a little bit silly, but also carefree, so it becomes infectious.
This is not an artist who is aiming to be held up against other intellectuals. The basslines in James Blake‘s album, or the r&b flavours of Jamie Woon, will always come across as high-minded pieces of work that have been carved out with more delicacy, but invite them to a stage battle at your club and we think Awolnation will provide the biggest punches. He wants to rock out with his cock out and provides us with a roller coaster ride of genres, with which the best bits will leave you stirred and shaken. This EP, which is available for free on his site, is for the whole ride and must only be judged by the smiles of the listeners at the end of the experience.
The whole thing closes with the most polished and somewhat slower tune, Sail, which is a radio-friendly hit in the waiting. It shows us a skill that only appears in moments through the rest of the EP, such as 1 minute 30 seconds into Burn It Down, where he decides to focus on the reduced pace and a set of addictive melodies. With Sail we find Aaron finally mastering the mix of synthetic reverb and melodic beauty that he’s clearly capable of, as he mixes up the punk, the bluesman, the electro robot and the vocalist. The lyrical refrain sums the whole thing up to perfection – “I blame it on my ADD“.
AWOLNATION – SAIL
AWOLNATION – BURN IT DOWN
AWOLNATION – GUILTY FILTHY SOUL