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Roomrunner - Roomrunner / Super Vague

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Artist: Roomrunner

Album: Roomrunner / Super Vague

Label: Fan Death

Review date: Apr. 30, 2012


Roomrunner - "Shed" (Roomrunner EP)


There seems to always be a market for music like Roomrunner’s. The market recognizes what the band is going for almost instantly, and draws easy-to-fathom connections between it and other bands playing the same game since the 1990s or thereabouts. The market approaches it gingerly when new, and scrambles for it as it falls out of print, only to keep it locked in a Spotify queue or iTunes playlist when it’s needed. If you didn’t have any questions about just how quickly a Hot Snakes reunion show might sell out, even as gigs by Obits seem thoroughly open to the public, then you probably get the appeal of Roomrunner.

This is riff rock, plain and simple. It’s spearheaded by a fellow named Denny Bowen, who played drums in Baltimore band Double Dagger before hoisting an electric guitar and stepping up to the mic for this project. Even without a full record in hand, the band has committed to some extensive touring in the wake of Double Dagger’s demise — what most bands that want to “make it” in some tangible capacity should be doing — and will have played NYC about five times this year by the time their Super Vague EP is to be released. They’re opening for the Jesus & Mary Chain at Raleigh’s upcoming Hopscotch Festival, and will probably blow those skeletal wasters off the stage. Hell, why wouldn’t they?

Back to the rock — we got our first sample last fall with Roomrunner’s self-titled EP, which serves as the template. These six songs feature squealing feedback from stem to stern, somewhat disinterested/treated vocals, and FX pedal mélange, but that’s all window dressing for the big ol’ guitar riffs that make up the centerpiece of each song. Those who’ve been in the game long enough will notice straightaway the manner in how these songs hinge upon only one or two aesthetic choices that become structural conceits, all in service of the riff. Textbook Midwestern indie rock move — they are an FX rack and one drummer away from any Arcwelder record, for instance. I could see people getting worn out from the lack of variance between songs, but this is music from people who remember indie rock of this stripe from the ’90s, and understand a little bit about where it came from and what happened to it. It’s normal to pay the riff this much reverence. Nirvana did it, Chavez did it, with a good deal more ingenuity in arrangements (and they continue to do it when reunion offers coax them out of retirement). Jawbox did it, Drive Like Jehu did it, the Foo Fighters did it (albeit better then than now), Torche continues to do it (though it remains to be seen if they remember how to), and now Roomrunner is doing it, rolling a grungy, inside-out duct tape ball of hiss over unsuspecting crowds, with room for giant chords that allow everything else in the tracks to hang in place.

Super Vague is just four songs to the EP’s six, and includes a download code for a live set to pad out the length and justify the cost. The band does a better job of addressing the sameness that weighs down the EP, while leaving their formula basically unchanged. The title track picks up where the tape leaves off, while “Undo” plays with a fast-break, opportunistic jangle that soon swells into another steamroller riff sesh. “No Wait” starts off big and gets even bigger, utilizing those same rhythmic progressions, either going up or down the scale, occasionally pushing a half-step higher in order to show how the song has grown outside the shape of its container. The brief noise blast of “Petrified” closes things out with a track from their demo, scaring everyone remaining out of the room.

It ain’t broke; they’re not fixing it. This isn’t revisionism, it’s a revival, and Roomrunner seem to have it locked down. Look for them in a concert venue near you.

By Doug Mosurock

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