Nineteen Ninety Seven "On the Run" Review

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In the year 1997, Titanic ruled the the box office, the first Harry Potter novel was published, we lost Princess Diana and Biggie Smalls, a sheep was cloned, and the songs on On The Run probably would have seemed fresh and original. But, sadly, it’s 2008 and nearly everything on Nineteen Ninety Seven’s sophomore album seems generic and overwrought.

The Chicago band went through some major lineup changes following the release of their debut, A Better View of the Rising Moon, last year. That change clearly has had a huge effect on the band’s sound, as they’ve toned down the pop-punk sound present on their debut in favor of more mature indie rock. One can’t help but think that this change was a bit unnatural and contrived, as they’ve essentially made their sound more in tune with current trends.

The album begins with “One Track Mind, Four Track Heart,” which is as awful as its terrible pun of a title lets on and sets up the album to be nothing but mediocre. The way vocalists Kevin Thomas and Alida Marroni play opposing roles in a relationship is interesting at first, and does spices things up a bit, but the novelty of it wears off fairly quickly. On the Run is chock full of bland relationship songs that we’ve heard dozens of times over. Everything is over-sentimental, overdone, and often cringe-inducing. Lyrics like, “Why is it so hard to fall in love? / You turn it on / You turn it off / My broken heart just keeps on breaking,” on “Zechariah’s Song” can’t possibly inspire anything but eye rolls.

If nothing else, the album is quite ambitious. The band incorporates a wide variety of instruments and is obviously aiming for a large sound. The production is also top notch, with everything sounding crisp, clear, and huge. None of that, however, winds up mattering because the songs simply aren’t there.