Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Runaways by Art of Fighting

Art of Fighting deserve to be written about purely due to the distinct lack of effort they go to to promote themselves. In fact, it's hard enough to find an AoF gig in their hometown of Melbourne. And for a band that has produced three quality records over seven years, that's pretty understated in anyone's terms.

But more about record number three. Runaways, released in a flurry of inactivity by both band and label, comes packaged in the now-familiar artwork of singer/guitarist Ollie Brown, and announces itself in a similar fashion. Somehow, Art of Fighting have managed to actually become more unassuming over the years. Where once they could be relied on to throw in a couple of radio-friendly numbers (think 'Akula', 'Reasons are all I Have Left' and 'Along the Run'), the closest they get to those positively hook-laden numbers (by comparison) are the choruses of tracks two and three, 'Distance as Virtue' and 'Free You', while the horns on 'Territories', while hardly hook-ish, are positively gorgeous. However, it is the lead single, the sweeping, floating 'Eastbound' that stands out head and shoulders above the rest.

None of this is to suggest that Runaways is in any way an inferior recording by this Melbourne four-piece. In fact, it is possible that this may stand as their greatest work yet. A fair portion of their appeal, and the appeal of this record, is the complete lack of pretension, hyperbole and general wank that is so easily identified. It's unclear whether the band members hold down day jobs, but the sheer grounded-ness and resolute determination to avoid fame and fortune allows the music to come screaming to the fore, without any songs jumping up and down screaming for your attention.

For a band that seems to spend so little time touring, Runaways is a record very much about life on the road, with titles such as 'Distance as Virtue', 'Eastbound', 'Ride After Ride' and 'In the Free Blue' suggesting as much. The notion of travel is routinely explored as a metaphor for personal growth, going from travel on buses and trains to 'Past drinking/Past smoking'.

Listeners expecting bombast, attention seeking, arrogance and other such contrivances will find themselves bitterly disappointed with Runaways, everyone else will most likely find themselves charmed by another understated, intelligent, melodic and beguiling entry into the Art of Fighting canon.

4 stars

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