Album Review: Runaround Kids – Linked Arms

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“There isn’t the slightest jot of experimental proof to show that time travel into the past is possible. As far as I’m aware, there’s no part of any current theory that requires time travel to be possible, at least not for humans.” That’s the kind of answer you’ll get if you try asking an undergraduate physics student if time travel is possible (they’ll also bombard you with a terrifyingly large amount of information about special relativity, so best just take my word for it). However, the Physics student I asked added an interesting caveat: “there’s nothing very strongly prohibiting it either”.

Runaround Kid’s début album, Linked Arms, happens to be the perfect piece of evidence with which to prove this theory. On first inspection, it seems to be plucked straight out of the early 90s American alt-rock scene that the gave rise to the likes of the legendary Pavement and their contemporaries. Linked Arms is a riotous début full of the sort of frantic guitar noise, quirky vocal tics and rapid dynamic shifts that came to characterise that time and that place.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that Runaround Kids are actually from modern day Wakefield. Yeah, really. Not an American college campus circa 1992 but Wakefield, in grey, rainy West Yorkshire, circa 2011. How have they managed to imbue that American spirit into the likes of ‘Can’t Lose Lover,’ ‘Null’ and ‘A Way That Works’? It just has to be a time machine. Or, perhaps more realistically, a bloody good record collection. Although when you think about it, there’s not really that much difference between the two, is there?

On Linked Arms, Runaround Kids occupy the same sonic space as a few other recent English bands that have always looked over the Atlantic for inspiration. Los Campesinos! and Johnny Foreigner in particular are both obvious influences on the young trio, with the contrasting vocal styles of bassist Jack Winn and guitarist George Garthwaite being reminiscent of Alexei Berrow and Gareth Campesinos. Their musical style isn’t too far removed from those bands either, with the pinkish assault of ‘Null’ sounding like an early LC! Single and the skilful guitar riffery that litters the album evoking Johnny Foreigner’s ‘Waited Up Til’ It Was Light’.

You could make a case for Linked Arms being a bit derivative, but they do enough with their music to truly make it their own, and what Linked Arms lacks in out-and-out innovation it more than makes up for in brutal emotion. The two singers shout out beautiful couplets like “His hand on the dress that she wore for work/As they sat together like the lovers they weren’t” as if it were the easiest thing in the world, with the back end of the album providing some real lyrical standouts in the form of ‘Linked Arms’ and ‘I Tried.’ And the fact that they have a certain knack with poppy melodies (something that seems to have escaped JoFo and LC! on their latest releases) makes even the harshest lyrical barbs easy to digest.

Runaround Kids have managed to produce something that isn’t just a dodgy rehash of early-90s trends (something which lesser bands have recently taken to doing with alarming frequency) but a strong, assured début that manages to build on its obvious influences to produce something fresh. In places, notably during the mid-album lull of ‘Last July’ and ‘Won’t Fuck Her Sober,’ Linked Arms sounds a bit too much like a young band trying to emulate their heroes, and it suffers as a result. But in the places where Linked Arms pokes its head out from the shadow of its influences, it works brilliantly. It’s an immediate and striking testament to the trials and tribulations of being young, with these Wakefield youngsters bearing their hearts with the help of some witty lyrical turns, powerful and melodic guitars, and a keen ear for a sharp and catchy pop melody.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether this album was made in Wakefield or California, or anywhere else for that matter, because the themes of nostalgia, love and loss on Linked Arms are completely universal. And when these ideas are wrapped up in a package as energetic and as joyous as Linked Arms, you can’t help but get caught up.

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