Album Review: Let Me Run – “MAD/SAD”

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Allow me to start this review by offering the gentlemen in New Jersey’s Let Me Run a sincere apology. I received the review copy of their album MAD/SAD in August and I loved it. I wrote up what I thought was a nice review…and apparently never submitted it, a fact that I only discovered when trying to link to the non-existent review for my year-end Top Ten list. Sorry dudes; I owe you one. The bulk of what follows was initially written four months ago, but every word of it still holds true.

It took just shy of eight full months, but 2012 has finally sent me an album from a band that was previously unknown to me to review that I knew from the opening notes was going to be one of my favorites of the year. Last year, that honor went to The Reveling’s Tributaries. This year? Let Me Run’s MAD/SAD.

The Jersey-based band have been around for a while and have undergone more than their fair share of lineup changes. The current lineup (Rocky Catanese on vocals/guitar, Corey Perez on guitar and Trevor Reddell on drums) holed up with the inimitable J Robbins for MAD/SAD, their third full-length. Jointly released by XOXO Records and Taking Flight Records, the result is easily one of the most enjoyable punk rock records of the year.

Album opener “If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It” sets the bar (and the energy level) high. Shades of mid-90s skate punk abound on the opening track. Think Pulley or Scott Radinsky-era Ten Foot Pole for a point of reference given the relentless snare drum setting the energy level high, providing the engine that keeps the arrpegiated (is that a word, because it seems like it should be) guitars moving forward through the verses until the dueling power chords take over in the choruses.

The band lets off the gas pedal only slightly from there on out. The bulk of MAD/SAD evokes the energy contained on mid-90s skate videos, although the band seems to have a greater focus on melody that is at times a little darker than some of their predecessors (particularly on the title track), finding them closer to waters charted by bands like Samiam and No Motiv rather than traditional skate-punk fare.

The only real misstep on the album is “Doctors.” It’s the to-be-expected down-tempo track that every release seems to have nowadays, and while it’s an okay song (and certainly the album’s most personal), it doesn’t really work with the rest of the album, as it’s perhaps better suited for the ambiance of a big arena show rather than a basement punk venue (and though it’s the album’s longest track, one could picture it being even longer, with the atmospheric guitar being drawn out a la Band Of Horses or My Morning Jacket or any other the other bands that have opened for Pearl Jam in recent memory).

Okay, fast-forward to December 2012 again. In perhaps the biggest compliment to Let Me Run, in the four months since MAD/SAD has been in regular rotation in my car, my soon-to-be five-year-old has developed quite an affinity for the album. Given that her other favorite bands of the moment are Hot Water Music and The Gaslight Anthem, I’d say that leaves you in pretty good company.

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