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SundayRunners' satisfying

SundayRunners - Tame Animals
(Machine Records)
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 7, 2008

Review by Tony Bonyata

It's been three years since SundayRunners released their self-titled debut (which these days is a lifetime for a new independent rock act), but somewhere in-between that time they've become a cohesive musical collective - a well-oiled group - or, in layman's terms, one helluva rock band.

Whereas their debut - a brilliant collection of eclectic indie pop rock - was basically created from the ground up by the band's fountainhead Randy Diderrich (writing, recording, singing and playing many of the instrumental parts himself) their sophomore full-length, Tame Animals, shows how the rest of the band has made improvements on the overall feel and dynamic of their music. Helping to add more muscle and punch on this effort are Randy's brother Rick Diderrich (bass), Mason Brown (guitars, vocals), Aaron Grant (keys, guitar, vocals) and Dan Reinholdt (drums). And even though they all had a hand in the recording process of their first record, their involvement on this ten-song collection is more immediate and fully-realized - most notably on the Brown penned gems "Heads Back In The Air," "Bitter Patience" and the urgent "Cutting Room Floor," all of which he also takes on the lead vocal duties - giving the album a nice balance of textures with Diderrich's own upbeat compositions. Sweet harmonies abound throughout, keys add colorful melodies and the complex rhythms are capable of morphing composition structure mid-song, while also having the dexterity to stop on a dime.

While their music is steeped in Midwestern power-pop, '60s British Invasion and modern indie-rock, the mathematical guitar interplay between Brown and Diderrich on numbers such as "Tame Animal Trainers" and the infectious "Seven Hands High," as well as the free-jazz saxophone that adds a sense of cacophony to the otherwise energetic rock number "Adios!" suggest that they might also have a bit of 'art-rocker' in them as well.

But as left-of-center as they may stray, SundayRunners are ultimately a tightly-knit rock band built on energy, dynamics, indelible melodies and solid song-craft. This is no more evident then on the hauntingly beautiful and poignant number "Stuntman," which like the introspective "1993" from their previous effort, turns out to be the album's highlight. They close Tame Animals with a strong version of '70s power-poppers Big Star's "The Ballad of El Goodo" from their 1972 debut #1 Record, and it turns out to be a fitting tribute from one extremely talented and promising act to another.

SundayRunners will be performing this Friday, Nov. 7th at The Geneva Theater Live Music Series along with The Blueheels at 8:00 pm at The Geneva Theater, 244 Broad St., Lake Geneva, WI

Related articles:

Hedgpeth Music Festival - Festival review - Twin Lakes, WI - July 2006
Summerfest 20056 - Photo gallery - Milwaukee, WI - July 2006
SundayRunners / Martha Berner - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - November 2005
Summerfest 2005 - Photo gallery - Milwaukee, WI - July 2005
"Elected" video - October 2004
SundayRunners - Album review - October 2004

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