In 2003, The Appleseed Cast released Two Conversations, the followup to their critically acclaimed two-disc Low Level Owl project. Fans were disappointed. Two Conversations was decidedly more commercial than Low Level Owl; the ambiance was replaced with melody and, it seemed to fans, the band traded ambition for accessibility. It’s true that Two Conversations shifted away from the unrepentant post-rock sound of the Low Level Owl CDs, but it’s also true that it’s an impressive album in its own right, even if it isn’t what was expected out of The Appleseed Cast. Most have come around to that by now.
I foresee something similar happening with Prawn’s new album, Run. 2014’s Kingfisher was unanimously praised on release by fans and critics alike. The record’s blending of emo and punk with post-rock made for an engrossing listen – one you can sing along to as well as brood to. Like Two Conversations, Run is a far more straightforward album than its predecessor. It’s more Into It. Over It. than Moving Mountains, let’s say – especially when the punk influence shines through on songs like “Empty Hands” and “Snake Oil Salesman.” The latter of which is a highlight on the record; Tony Clark shouting, “I know what you’ve been selling,” is one of the most fun moments in the band’s whole discography.
Typically, though, Prawn hasn’t been a fun band. They’re always a pleasure to listen to, but rarely is their music so bouncy or jovial. Listening to the album’s lead single, “North Lynx,” is a reminder of that. Probably the only song on Run that could’ve fit on any of their earlier releases, it’s easily one of the best songs the band has ever released, a beautiful dynamic post-rock song. And it’s almost totally unrepresentative of the rest of the record. “Cricket in the Ward” is something of a bridge between the two sounds, a poppy indie rock track with a gorgeous post-rock bridge and “Greyhound” feels like latter-day Foxing, but for the most part, Run isn’t going to be what people expect out of Prawn, which is that’s the record’s biggest hurdle, ultimately. The songwriting is as tight as ever and Clark sounds better than ever, but fan expectation might be too hard to shake for the band. The only thing to hope is that it doesn’t take a decade for fans to come around.