From the first count off on “Oh Come On”, the Julie Ruin’s Run Fast is a hard-driving masterpiece of the bratty female-fronted punk that Kathleen Hanna pioneered with Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. Her little girl vocals tail off into sighs and escalate into screams, and the guitar of Sara Landeau is heavy enough that the instrumental breaks feel like they could have been lifted from an early ’80s hair metal record. The chorus repeats itself with Hanna’s shriek and sigh, the backing chorus angelic and sweet. It’s an opening song that melds ’50s girl groups with Hanna’s edgy and defiant confidence, and it’s great.
It continues with “Ha Ha Ha”, hand claps and humming harmonies backing Hanna’s nearly incomprehensible half-shouted verses. The guitars keep driving, simple lines backed up by Kathi Wilcox’s bass lines, turning simplicity into something persuasive and compelling. “Just My Kind” is a slinky garage pop groove of a seduction, repeating the girl group harmonies and toning down Hanna’s vocals to something eerie and lovely and seductive and a little bit menacing. “Party City” plays up the “brat” in brat punk, Hanna nearly spitting out the rhythm lyrics and the rest of the band hollering Party City in the background.
“Cookie Road” just made me go out and buy Oreos, but it’s also got a fantastic Dixieland-esque piano line laid over the thumping bass and skittering jazz drumming. “Lookout” hums with resonant guitar lines and accusations.
“Right Home” proclaims i want a drink in my hand on the dance floor now, and that’s basically my modus operandi (except for how I’m not drinking, but you know what I mean). It’s gonna be my anthem this fall for every night I’m too tired, too done in by work, and it’ll get me to shows that make me shake my ass like this record does. “Kids In NY” made me want to re-read Just Kids, and is a stellar male-female duet on a record where female voices dominate; it’s a shake out of the mold and it holds a lot of power for that. “Goodnight Goodbye” is both an ode to getting older, but it’s also what would have happened if Erasure had been one of those girl groups I mentioned earlier — heavy harmonies and romantic imagery. “South Coast Plaza” lifts that male-fronted song to the forefront, and it’s another romantic ode to Southern California and being older and fucked up and teenage romances, with girl group chorus lilting against the heavy spoken word verses.
“Girls Like Us” is perfect.
“Stop Stop” and “Run Fast” finish the record off with two epic brat punk anthems, guitars almost out of control and Hanna definitely teetering on the edge; there’s gorgeous melodic guitar work on “Stop Stop”, and “Run Fast”, the title track, starts off with a soothing electronic keyboard line before the guitars reverb in and the drums set the frenetic pace. “Run Fast” is an ode to the Riot Grrrl movement that Hanna was the poster girl for, and it’s part Elastica, part Bikini Kill, all everything I needed from it.
This is a spectacular album — it takes the skills of all the people in the band and plays them to their best, and put together, their best is amazing.