Band: The Runnies
Free mp3: “You Can’t Win” (’til Feb. 26)
A song review like this one happens so infrequently on Chicago Tunes that I needed to backtrack some to research how I went about writing and formatting it the one and only other time.
That post, uploaded over a year ago, was a celebration of U.S. Royalty’s “Equestrian,” a tune that hit and profoundly affected me at a time that I apparently wanted to hear it.
What’s funny about singly digesting “Equestrian” then and “You Can’t Win” now isn’t that I’m doing so by picking through separate pieces of their respective assemblies. (This is, however, true. Whereas the “Equestrian” piece was an exploration of possible messages in the lyrics of U.S. Royalty, “You Can’t Win” gets its own posting today because it’s groovy as hell).
The funny, then, is how stylistically different “Equestrian” is from “You Can’t Win.” Any lingering suspicions I may have had about the level of satisfaction I’ve lately received from garage/psych/punk or any loose combination of the three is surely gone now. I might be hooked or be there very soon.
You see, I’ve noticed in the new year here that the bands subscribing to those genres — I dislike genres, you know, but I need ’em here as a sort of foundation — are the same ones that are largely shaping the livelier side of the city’s music scene. They are, I think, Chicago’s trailblazers.
I remember going to a show not long ago in my Pennsylvanian hometown and being taken aback by the extreme number of movers and shakers who bopped and jumped around me. Surely this didn’t always happen, yes?
According to a friend who came with me, it most definitely did. No matter the style or format, showgoers in south central Pennsylvania danced with silly swagger most of the time. I mean, a stark contrast from the emotionless introverts I’d grown used to standing next to in Chicago clubs. Really, I was all but convinced that to be hip and to be cool in the Midwest’s biggest city was to, at shows, appear like you had no business being there.
My friend’s take: I was going to hear music in the wrong spaces.
As I’ve noticed over the past few months, it wasn’t the fault of the venues — the Empty Bottles, the Hideouts and so on — but the music itself. Chicagoans, apparently, don’t boogie to a lot of the music I’ve featured here previously, but they do loose their shit for bands like, well, The Runnies.
“You Can’t Win” got handpicked by me today because it so closely captures much of what I like about not just The Runnies, but the kinds of bands who can get Chicago crowds to move. It’s my favorite tune off an eight-track album they released late last year, and I think the final song — or, at least, one of the final songs — they played at a show last week at the Empty Bottle. It seems they’ve realized how anthemic it is; a total crowd pleaser.
At just under two-and-a-half minutes, “You Can’t Win” is raw energy through to the end. Its drumbeats drop in quickly enough, and from there it just soars amidst a balanced storm of keys and guitar riffs. Its 20 seconds of finale is gorgeously overwrought in frenzy. That’s when the voice of Runnies front woman, Mary McKane, kicks in with a few coarse wails before a crash of symbols signals its sudden end.
- The Chicago-based Runnies is McKane, Russ Calderwood and Brett Swinney.
- “You Can’t Win” is the title track off a Runnies album released December 8, 2011. It’s online and primed for your hard drive. | Pay What You Want
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