Those of you with one finger placed inquisitively under the recent broadsheet predictions for this year’s Big Thing (yes, I know, we’ve had a few months to let them get going) may have noted the continual occurrence of one Morning Runner. As predictions for the musical ‘stratosphere’ go, it isn’t that much of a risk. If we’re basing this on critical acclaim in all the posh papers and a fair few album sales under their collective belts, then the chances of them failing miserably are probably in the likeliness league of the Syd Barrett World Tour 2006 or ‘Chinese Democracy’ being worth the wait. Because, As their debut album Wilderness Is Paradise Now shows, they’ve got the essential parts that make up every ‘alternative’ (read: popular with Q Magazine) group of this century, with bells on. Shame, though, that in doing this they’ve sacrificed a lot of the interesting parts instead.
When this record’s good it ain’t half bad, particularly on ‘Gone Up In Flames’ and ‘Burning Benches’ where a perky, punchy guitar-and-piano shaker-maker plays host to a few gnarled flourishes on the vocal front, suggesting that if they put their mind (and credibility) to it ver Runner could be the danceable British riposte to The Walkmen. When they’re so-so, they’re barely distinguishing enough to provoke anything above indifference, another semi-dimensional indie troupe off the conveyor belt with the intention to steal Starsailor’s fans from... well, Starsailor I suppose. They even quite predictably seem to be repackaging the more digestible templates set out by Radiohead and Coldplay, particularly in their attempts at ‘epic-ness’ like opener ‘It’s Not Like Everyone’s My Friend’, although rarely saying anything more profound and poetic then “I’m gonna wake you up in about ten minutes... I wanna carry your luggage until my shoulders ache.”
But when they’re bad – which is much more often than is quite necessary – they’re really quite terrible, a horridly mundane and cringeworthy set of botched musical formulas and over-tired techniques that could make the likes of Athlete appear to be barrier-annihilating innovators. Take ‘Oceans’ for example, with its sub-Thom Yorke vocal, cloying metaphorically-confused sentiment and a piano melody that Keane would laugh at for being namby-pamby. This means for every track that puts them across as truly promising grandeur-merchants (and yes, they do exist) there’s at least one four-minute plod of tiresome, watered-down soft rock to go with it. Which, although not showing them up completely, does not an astonishing debut album make.
Suffice to say, it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of fevered pop possibility if Morning Runner shift a few of these. Shame that the album itself would need a bit more substance to justify it.
5Thomas Blatchford's Score