The home schooled Minnesota trio are music veterans by this point in time. The release of their self-titled debut on Tooth and Nail Records resulted in rave reviews and fans heralding a new powerhouse group on the scene. Two years later, they are back with epic (forgive the cliche adjective) On the Run. What should be expected this time? In short, the trio have become both more accessible and better.

The dozen song collection begins with the simply catchy “Moment to Moment,” classic Children 18:3 which doesn’t stretch too far in any direction but works as a good first single of the record (perhaps a more appropriate choice, rather than leading with the most epic sounding song , i.e. “Lost So Long” on Rains’ A’ Comin”). “Bandits” is a tune for which bootlegs have been floating around Youtube for awhile, and it’s in the same vein as “Moment to Moment” – solid but not excellent. Bassist Lee Marie becomes the lead vocalist in “We’ll Never Say Goodbye” in a radio friendly tune complete with a final chorus key change. By this point we can sense a subtle progression in the mood of the songs – rather than taking a running start the band prefers to meander its way into the good stuff.

Some good ol’ punk angst arises in “What About Justice?” David Hostetter demonstrates complete control over his voice here. A little breakdown leading out of the bridge is particularly effective and fun but doesn’t tread into full on angry territory until the repetition of the title in the outro of the song. Drummer Seth Hostetter executes a somewhat random drum solo to tide us over until the most singsong tune thus far, “Jenny.” “Always On the Run” takes the listener by surprise with the power-ballad-ish top 40 sounding intro complete with midtempo electronics. I kept waiting for the old Children to pop up but it didn’t. I suppose for being the (sort of) title track it needs to be really memorable. It’s a good song but I’m not entirely convinced this isn’t somewhat of a misstep for the band.

Things are back on track with the aptly titled wistful song “I Tried to Do the Right Thing.” Some washed out sounding drumming lead us into “Holding On,” is yet another pensive song albeit the most upbeat of the trio starting with the title track. The lyrics are especially theocentric (faith-based) on this one. “Why Are You Afraid of the Dark?” speaks to humanity’s childlike fears in light of a God who has our best interests at heart. It is a bit repetitive, but enjoyable. The echoing fade-out is cool as it seems to be made to let the line “Why are you afraid of the dark tonight…” line linger in your head. Angst peaks in “Nowhere to Run” and “All in Your Head,” the latter of which I could see as a fun concert ender. “Drifter” closes the album in the hugest sounding minute and a half I’ve heard in a while.

In short, Children 18:3 seems to have done it again. While there are some surprise elements, for the most part they work. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (if you are a regular reader around these parts) I cannot believe this trio isn’t more popular. On The Run is worth a buy.

Rating: 7.3/10

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