Five years have passed since Run Dan Run‘s debut full-length album, Basic Mechanics. A certain degree of expectation often follows a hiatus of this length, yet Normal is in no way a reflection of a group consuming their time by expanding and developing their craft. Their shoegaze style of indie rock/pop has moments of creative inspiration but fails to achieve anything praise-worthy. Normal, in a word, is boring.
Dan McCurry is the leader of this Charleston-based pack. As the primary songwriter, his vocals are the focus of each song. Unfortunately, McCurry’s breathy, flat timbre and over-sentimental lyrics are the cause of most of the problems. This lends to question why they are placed in the spotlight, in which the instrumentation and melodies are already afterthoughts.
Normal peaks very early. “Lovesick Animal” is an imaginative art-house pop song, reminiscent of Broken Social Scene, with funky brass tones. “Box-Type Love” lends credence to why Run Dan Run is compared to The Postal Service–one can hear Ben Gibbard behind the song’s ethereal nature, with soft female vocals accompanying McCurry.
It is all downhill from here. The pace of Normal is unrelentingly inert. McCurry’s puerile lyricism is hard to hear (and not in the good sense), as if he has taken pages from the diary of a teenager and thought he would try his hand at songwriting: “False-hearted lover won’t you lay down in the grass with me/Won’t you lay down and be false with me”, “Gestures, patterns taken out of context” and “Anonymous girl I don’t have to miss you/Anonymous girl I don’t have to answer to” are repeated ad nauseam. Lyrics aside, the instrumentation does little to spark the imagination either. Ash Hopkins’ guitar sound is unadventurous, motioning through the same riffs throughout the album.
Repetitiveness is at the core of Normal, emphasizing the pseudo-insightful nature of the words. Run Dan Run’s misogynous themes come across as petty, not heart-breaking. Each song becomes as listless as the one it follows. If you decide to listen to Normal, be sure to have some sort of anti-sedative handy.