For all that’s changed over the past 30 years, you can still take comfort in certain recurring phenomena, like Martin Scorsese movies that require booking an afternoon off work and North Carolina acts raising the bar for unkempt yet emotionally stirring indie rock. When charting the genre’s trajectory this year, all roads lead to the greater Asheville area, which has yielded pace-setting albums like Wednesday’s raggedly glorious Rat Saw God and Indigo de Souza’s charmingly eclectic All of This Will End. Now, their Raleigh compatriots Truth Club complete the 2023 Triangle triangle: Frequent showmates with the former and occasional collaborators with the latter, the band also shares custody of Asheville studio ace Alex Farrar. But if Wednesday are like the Superchunk-esque rallying point of the current NC scene, then Truth Club are like the more enigmatic and forbidding Polvo, deploying more oblique strategies to similarly arresting ends.
Running From the Chase is technically Truth Club’s second album, but it captures a moment of spiritual rebirth for the band. While recording 2019’s wily and wiry Not an Exit, the founding trio of singer and guitarist Travis Harrington, bassist Kameron Vann, and drummer Elise Jaffe tapped Yvonne Chazal for additional songwriting support. Chazal officially joined upon Not an Exit’s release, and her addition effectively reformulated the band’s DNA, encouraging a more open collaborative process and increasingly unconventional strategies. Their debut presented a band teetering between classic ‘90s slack-rock and second-wave emo; Running From the Chase both builds upon that foundation while redrafting the architecture, integrating DIY sound experiments—from the floor-scraping sounds of a musical-chairs competition to cymbals being driven over by cars—into songs as imposing and precarious as Jenga towers.
This isn’t simple fucking-around for the sake of it—Truth Club’s alternately lurching and liberating dynamics reflect hard-fought struggles with mental health. Several songs on Running From the Chase begin abruptly, thrusting you directly into Harrington’s turbulent headspace. But after these sudden entries, it can take a moment to acclimate to the band’s slow-stalking movements and shapeshifting songcraft, where wandering, half-spoken vocal lines gradually swell into fulsome melodies and stray guitar patterns intertwine into delicately latticed tapestries. They approach these songs as if their very survival was dependent on conserving their strength: “Suffer Debt” is like a 4-7-8 breathing exercise in musical form, receding and surging at increasingly dramatic intervals. Harrington paints a vivid portrait of trying to keep your shit together when your mind won’t let you rest while also interrogating the very process of turning personal trauma into public entertainment: Three minutes in, the band suddenly shifts gear into a raucously grungy denouement where he abandons the poetic similes to speak more bluntly. “Sometimes it feels so bad I can’t even express myself/I don’t even know where to start,” he declares.
Running From the Chase is rife with similarly scabrous sentiments that go down like broken glass. As the title track makes clear, the reward for drumming up the courage to leave the house is getting your soul crushed by your day job (“Work until he’s dead/ work until we’re dead/Is there any other plan?”). “Is This Working?” transforms that existential quandary into riot-stoking unrest: “Each day: wake, worry, watch,” Harrington seethes. “Is this working?/Are you working hard?/Is it working for you?” But Truth Club never seem fully paralyzed by their pessimism: Running From the Chase also offers up adrenalized, fuzzbox-kicking rave-ups (“Blue Eternal”) that function as necessary pressure-release valves, and slow-burning moments like “Exit Cycle,” where Truth Club push back against the darkness. “Hopelessness asserts itself/Not the last time,” Harrington cautions, though he sounds less defeated than prepared for battle, while de Souza joins him on the frontline. Running From the Chase is an often agitated response to a world intent on draining you of your energy, but it’s also a reminder of the beauty in a community.
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