May 27, 2008
Victory Records

Album Review

Chicago's 1997 continues making innovative instrumental choices on its sophomore album On the Run, but it seems that the band has traded its playfulness for urgency here with mixed results. The band has not compromised its strengths and continues to infuse its music with catchy melodies and tight ensemble work, but the album lacks some of the heart and brightness that marked debut Better View of the Rising Moon. Like its predecessor, the focal point of On the Run is the vocal interaction between singers Kevin Thomas and Kerri Mack, whose shared lead duties, shimmering harmonies, and duets provide the bulk of the album's heart. However, producer Steve Haigler's emphasis on Mack and Thomas sometimes comes at the expense of the other musicians. Known for weaving atypical instruments into its sound, 1997 makes use of glockenspiel, harmonica, accordion, and a singing saw throughout the course of On the Run, but they seem like incidental elements rather than highlights here. It's unfortunate, as more strategic placement of these parts could have brought more life to the album, which is breezy and unaffected, but ultimately far more bittersweet than its predecessor. The songs, which mostly focus on an introspective look at life and relationships (though some do venture into abstract political commentary), work best when both Thomas and Mack are featured. However, the juxtaposition of bright melodies with bleak lyrics throughout On the Run doesn't always work; while tunes like "Dancing with the Devil," "4 a.m. Conversation" and "I Will Always Find You" highlight the best 1997 has to offer, others don't fare so well, such as the plodding "January 19th" or "Winds of Change," which has the feel of a Jimmy Eat World outtake. The album also suffers from being a bit too slick, production-wise. The tunes may be memorable, but they generally lack the grittiness necessary to make for a truly engaging listen. It's another reminder that 1997 has headed in a different direction with this release -- their hopefulness has been tinged with despair.
Katherine Fulton, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. One Track Mind, Four Track Heart
  2. Dancing with the Devil
  3. Sunset Beyond Black Clouds
  4. 4 a.m. Conversation
  5. January 19th
  6. I Will Always Find You
  7. Winds of Change
  8. Zechariah's Song
  9. A Dream of Form in Days of Thought
  10. Tennessee Song, Pt. 2
  11. On the Run
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