At this point, maybe it’s just best to accept that bands like Prawn don’t want to be “gotten” by the masses. It wouldn’t be entirely ignorant to assume that a band’s primary aim would be to appeal to the greatest number of people as they can, and yet, with this tepid combo of emo, indie-rock and math-rock, it remains so difficult to like or even concentrate on at points that a fulfilling listen is a rare thing indeed. At least with Run there’s the potential for something to change; the strings and horns from Prawn’s last album Kingfisher have been pushed aside in favour of a more traditional band setup, and the spidery math-rock guitar lines are pushed further behind a better grasp on standout melody.
Alas, that doesn’t improve it by much. The way that Prawn carry themselves on Run may be an improvement over the most obtuse of the emo revivalism crowd, but it’s still a shallow listening experience overall with no emotional extremities being pushed in either direction. Wrapped in the beige, monochrome film that seems to be part and parcel with these kinds of bands, Run becomes drained of life so early on, and what’s left is a listen for which slow and unresponsive feel like the default settings.
That’s not to say Prawn don’t break out of that mould every now and then – Cricket In The Ward and Hawk In My Head are a bit more spry and easy to manage, and North Lynx pulls away from awkward math-rock almost entirely for a more lush, expansive sound reminiscent of Brand New or Manchester Orchestra, and it does work. In fact, if any positive needs to be attributed to Prawn, it’s that, much more so than their peers, they bring out the value of more conventional melody in a sound like this, and with a track like Short Stem, where a sturdier rhythm guitar shares the spotlight with some more fragile touches and even what sounds like a banjo, it puts into perspective how to make this sort of indie-emo more manageable, and how many other bands seem to be jumping through hoops to do that complete opposite.
But that’s hardly any use when they’re put towards a sound that’s frequently so plain and bland. Prawn having even something more of a spring in their step is an immediate positive, but Run practically flaunts how few ideas its creators actually. Almost every track adheres to this formula too – a driving, colourless riff accentuated by even more colourless guitars and Tony Clark’s vocals which are fighting for space in their own narrow range. It’s a lot more noticeable towards the end when things really start to drag like on Rooftops and the cluttered six minutes of Leopard’s Paw, but Prawn seem to have so much faith in their single constant that they’ve spread it across the entire album, and it does hurt them. Run really is a slog to get through, and while the themes of isolation and alienation go some way in excusing the lack of real pace or dynamic, it still doesn’t sound good or have much in the way of replay value.
It puts Prawn in something of an awkward position within their scene – they’re an easier, more agreeable prospect than a bunch of wafer-thin math-rock bands, but they’re bereft of real vivacity that would allow them to cross over into alt-rock. Maybe that’ll come in time like a handful of tracks here would suggest, but they’re still powering against the current, and losing at that. Run isn’t an awful album, that needs to be stressed, but where it lacks in outright awful features, it fails to make up for them elsewhere. Perhaps it’s worth a look for emo purists, but probably nothing more than that.
For fans of: Brand New, The Appleseed Cast, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Run’ by Prawn is released on 22nd September on Topshelf Records.