Album: Runaway Ricochet – Diminishing Returns

Despite putting out a trio of singles just last year, an EP in 2020, and this being their third full length album, somehow I had never listened to Runaway Ricochet before this album. My first impression is that this is what happens when you mix Simple Minded Symphony with Poindexter, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. 

Typically, I don’t like to compare one band to another, so now I am going to probably over-explain exactly why I say that. First, let me be clear. Simple Minded Symphony is one of my favorite bands right now, and their last album was a top 5 album for me last year. They are some of the most talented musicians playing today and every song features incredible musicianship and lasts an average of about 5 minutes to fully develop the song. This is where the Simple Minded Symphony comparison comes in. These songs have amazing composition, everyone in the band is a master of their craft, and every song is developed and composed instead of feeling like a formula. As far as Poindexter, the songs are much more rock than Simple Minded Symphony. Sure, tons of bands (including Simple Minded Symphony) have songs that focus on mental health, the level of playfulness and repeated mental health and questioning reminds me of Poindexter. The fact that both are from the northern Midwestern states (Poindexter is from Michigan while Runaway Ricochet is from Minnesota) may also shape this comparison.

 Upon my first listen to the album the first thing that completely blew me away was the guitar solo during “Mental Marathon”. Sitting, distracted, listening to the album once through as background music, I had noticed that there was a clear uptick in talent through the album, but there hadn’t been a ton of hooks to sink into me and force me to pay attention. Then the guitars in Mental Marathon picked up and Holy shit did I drop what I was doing and start paying attention and turn up the volume. It felt like the best hair band guitar solo was dropped onto the album and nothing else in the world mattered for a minute, and when the rest of the song came back I was ready to sing along with a song I had never heard before.

“Uncle Qrow” features equally impressive guitars over Simple ska rhythms, and catchy horns. Aggressive drums are just as much a part of the formula here. In “Burnout” they mix in some funky sounds but maintain the aggression and the horns. 

The number of textures that this 5 piece band adds in is impressive, but I’m even more impressed at their ability to keep everything sounding clean. None of the Sounds seem to sit in the same layer, so it’s easy to hear each instrument, and the bass is every bit as clear and good as the horns, guitar, and drums. 

“(A)pathetic” was one of the songs that became an early favorite. With lyrics like “reading the same paragraph 1000 times, but I don’t process the words between the lines” driving particularly hard. I just took 2 months off from writing music reviews because I was struggling while working on my master’s degree. This last semester every time I had to do an assignment I would stare at the pages and nothing connected. It felt ironic that I delayed even listening to this album until I finished school only to have the words that described my experiences being sung in my earpods. “Lately I don’t feel like doing anything, I guess I’ll pack a bowl”…

Another thing I love about this album is the vocals. It’s not just great lyrics, but the vocals are definitely seen as an instrument and are appropriately melodic, but also aggressive and at times have appropriate screams. They paint pictures that are beautiful, whimsical, melodic, and angst and flat out aggressive. In other parts they feature gang vocals. There is such an amazing range throughout the album.

While “Mental Marathon” was a showstopper for the guitar solo, “Optimist” is the counterpart for the saxophone. About three and a half minutes into a great song, the rhythm drops out, smooth sexy saxophone starts playing over some jazzy bass lines and a simple ska upstroke rhythm for about 90 seconds. Then we get some more solos for everyone in the band in “Esker Grove”, which also features fun singalong gang vocals and harmonies, and a nice jam session. All of these songs would be good without their respective solos, but there is something special about bands allowing their musicians the opportunity to highlight their skills with solos on the album. “Esker Grove” feels like it needs a singalong video to play on screen while they are in concert so the whole audience can join in. It’s easily the crowd favorite at live shows. 

I might have been sleeping on Runaway Ricochet for the past 6-7 years, but here is your chance to avoid making that mistake. Go pick up a copy or stream it today. 

Written by Gimpleg