If you are familiar with Soul Asylum, it is probably through their 1993 hit Runaway Train. Or possibly through their many contributions to the soundtracks of Kevin Smith films. Much has changed for the band since that 90s heyday though with the tragic passing of their bassist Karl Mueller in 2005, plus the departure of lead guitarist Dan Murphy leaving lead singer Dave Pirner as the only original member.
The band’s 12th album is their second outing with Pirner as the only original member. However, for all the line-up fluctuation, sonically things are pretty much business as usual. The record predominantly delivers the group’s signature mix of melodic rock interlaced with a little grunge and just a light dash of the punk sound of their earliest days. Pirner & Co also delve into country rock and even folk with mixed results.
This latter diversion into folk is definitely one of the least successful outings. The song Dead Letters seems almost like a parody of an Irish folk song but done without any apparent irony. It’s not helped by clunky lyrics such as “Dead letter, dead letter of immaculate attention / Written in blood that flows from the pen tip.” Nor is this the only moment of unintentional humour. Social Butterfly may also cause some mirth, not so much due to the lyrics, but due to the sheer overwhelming earnestness. We’re talking U2 at their most earnest levels of earnestness here.
There are, however, also fun moments of intentional humour such as on the eminently catchy Landmines. Because let’s face it, nobody writes the line “Well, a landline’s better than a landmine” without their tongue firmly implanted in their cheek.
Arguably, the band is at their strongest when they let something of their earlier incarnations shine through, with the punky Hopped Up Feeling being the album stand-out. One of the other album highlights, Got It Pretty Good, is a spirited chant-along which finds the band more revved up and once again feels closer to their 90s pomp.
Across its 46 minutes, there is very little on Hurry Up And Wait that is actively bad. Pirner has been at this game for a long time and could clearly write a passable melodic rock song in his sleep. Unfortunately, too much of the album is just that – passable rock songs that seem indistinguishable from a lot of other radio rock. This is a shame as undoubtedly, there are also a few gems here that are reminiscent of the group at their best.