Blue Élan (label)
17 April 2020 (released)
28 March 2020
It's been forty years since Soul Asylum formed in Minneapolis, a city that had recently given birth to fellow alternative rock upstarts The Replacements and Husker Du. In terms of critical acclaim, Dave Pirner's crew may have lagged behind the latter two bands, but in 1992 they went on to enjoy mainstream success with the MTV-conquering 'Runaway Train' (and the now triple-platinum album, 'Grave Dancers Union'). Though their profile has waned and line-ups changed since then, Pirner still tours and records as Soul Asylum, and has released a record at least every few years.
'Hurry Up And Wait' is the band's 12th album, and it certainly isn't the sound of someone inching towards retirement. On the contrary, there's plenty of vitality on show in the jaunty rhythm and call-and-response chorus of 'Got It Pretty Good', and the stop-start riff of 'Freezer Burn'. 'Hopped-Up Feeling', meanwhile, sounds like Pirner wrote it after being messed around one too many times, and is all the better for its nervous, irritable energy.
The highlight, however, is 'Dead Letter'. Built around a haunting, minor-key melody and funereal pace, it sounds like Pirner's attempt at some kind of gothic Irish folk song, and is all the more striking for the fact that there's nothing else like it on the record.
At fourteen tracks, though, 'Hurry Up And Wait' could've used some editing. The likes of 'Make Her Laugh' and 'Here We Go' are uncomfortably MOR country-tinged strum-alongs; songs that sound pleasant enough whilst they're playing, but leave very little lasting impression. Perhaps it's the confidence which comes with age, but at times on this record, Pirner sounds a bit too comfortable. Even the beautifully melancholic lead single 'If I Told You' wouldn't sound out of place on any of the various interchangeable mainstream 'rock radio' stations that litter the USA, and at times, you can't help but wish for something that burns with the same urgency and vulnerability as early 90s gem 'Somebody To Shove'.
Its finest moments certainly measure up to the classics in their canon, but overall, this is merely a decent Soul Asylum record.