Run Fast by The Julie Ruin begins like a Bikini Kill record, shows flashes of what made Le Tigre’s This Island so memorable at times, but becomes a bit problematic before it’s over. When it’s all said and done, it’s been a while (too long) since Kathleen Hanna has released new music, and while this isn’t her best, much of it is well worthy of repeated listening.
The album’s first two songs, “Oh Come On” and “Ha Ha Ha,” are both catchy and energy-laden tracks that could have been strong entries by either of Hanna’s earlier, more-famous bands. The tempo calms down a bit with the excellent melodic third track “Just My Kind,” and it seems like we’re in for an amazing record. Unfortunately, it gets pretty inconsistent from this point on. There are a few tracks that I feel are best described as “filler.” And by far the most irritating aspect, which really starts to become grating by the middle of the album, are the shouty male backing vocals. There are some excellent songs on this record, but the backing vocals, for lack of a less terrible pun, are the ruin of The Julie Ruin. It frankly sounds as though there were a grumpy neighbor next to the studio shouting out replies to Kathleen Hanna’s vocals. It is easily the worst element of the album. It practically ruined a couple of otherwise promising songs like “Cookie Road” and “Kids in NY,” and made “South Coast Plaza” completely unlistenable.
The album does end up being fairly strong at the end, despite the choppy center. The best parts of this album are pretty much down to Hanna’s energy, which has been the case for most of her career. There are also some good musical flourishes to be heard here, most of synth work in particular. Dump the awkward backing vocals, and this would be something close to a great record. As it is, beggars can’t be choosers, and Run Fast is an enjoyable effort (if not quite manna from heaven) for fans of Kathleen Hanna. For anyone who isn’t already a fan, this isn’t the place to start.