Running Sacred

Exene Cervenka

Rhino, 1990

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


In the 1980s, the punk band X was one of the leading lights of the scene, especially in their native Los Angeles. Upon their breakup at the end of the decade, lead singer Exene Cervenka went solo and completely changed genres, going with a folk persona on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Old Wives’ Tales and a sort of folk-alt-rock hybrid on her second outing, Running Sacred.

This disc has almost nothing to do with punk, either lyrically or musically, but stakes out a well-produced college rock niche, similar to 10,000 Maniacs but with a little more energy. And the singing has something to be desired; punk may be able to get away with semi-tuneless vocals, but folk rock demands some vocal ability, and Cervenka’s passion is greater than her range.

Fans of the Maniacs, Juliana Hatfield, or Green-era R.E.M. will probably get the most out of this. A very slight country influence creeps into the guitar playing, particularly on “Missing Nature” and “It Fell,” though the lyrics and singing detract a bit from the music. “Slave Labor” is the worst offender, all chiming Byrds-like guitars set to particularly dumb lyrics (“Everybody has a boss / My boss is my heart / So you see that I / Can never quit my job”).

It is the more downbeat minor chord songs that succeed, especially on the short acoustic “Clinic” (proof that Cervenka can sing when she tries), the driving “Just Another Perfect Day,” and the way the riff breaks into the driving chorus on “Red Dirt,” the standout track here.

The songs are fairly simple, all mid-tempo and not prone to experimentation or variety, but that is to be expected when switching genres. Running Sacred, then, ends up being of little consequence, although there are a handful of minor gems to be found for those inclined to look.

Rating: C-

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