Review Summary: Champion is an album with an age and a personality, and it happens to be a teenager with erupting hormones.
The Audition – Champion
Reviewer’s tilt: Never intrigued by pop punk and doesn’t know the first thing about this band.
Pop punk is slowly becoming a tasteless genre. You want to make it as a pop punk band today? Take a number and wait in line, because acts like you are a dime a dozen. Pop punk, along with rap, hip hop and pop, has proven to be one of the defining musical genres of this decade. No matter what type of listener you are, you will always be surrounded by the pop punk culture, and quite frankly, the pop punk culture is one big blur of meh. Bands in this day and age are having increasingly difficult times distinguishing themselves in this genre.
Surprisingly, with the release of Champion, The Audition manage to come up with some pretty good material. Released January 22nd, 2008, Champion stands out as a decent pop punk album. The direction taken with this album comes from a variety of influences imparted by each of the band’s members. Lead guitarist Seth Johnson, for example, is clearly a fan of some notably heavier, complex music in the world of rock. He delivers some pretty damn good riffs and never sticks to a single formula. That’s so important in distinguishing average from above-average – I can tell Johnson didn’t leave the studio without making sure his riffs drove the song properly. The guy’s got an imagination, and it shows in his playing. While only sporting two guitar solos, he’s got a love for the wah pedal and a nack for ingenuity. The guy keeps things fun and consistently funky from song to song.
While most bass players in the genre aren’t worth a mention, it’s tough to ignore Joe Lussa on this album. With bass lines very reminiscent of Flea of Chili Pepper fame, he’ll pulse in and out of the spotlight with some cool lines to fill the gaps left by the rhythm guitars. There’s always something interesting going on in the songs, many thanks to Lussa. The rhythm guitars mimic Johnson’s leads – they never follow the same formula. Yeah, there’s your basic power-chordage, but most of the playing is mild-to-fast riffing high on the fret board, giving the songs a colorful scheme. It’s nothing complicated, but it’s far from conventional. And it’s really good.
Danny Stevens, The Audition’s lead singer, ties the band together. His vocal melodies are catchy and he likes to sing about love, yeah no surprises there. The thing about Danny is that when you listen to him, you can’t help but to admire how much spirit he’s putting in to his songs. He’s a singer that you can tell really does what he does for the love of it, inspired by real emotion and a desire to let it all out. Listen to Hell To Sell, you can’t help but to enjoy his tempting vocal style, or his despairingly catchy display in Shady Business. He’s creative, catchy, hell… it works fine!
Some Cool Tracks - The band’s lead single, Warm Me Up, will get the vagina panties dropping immediately. The most sexually driving song on the album happens to be one of the best. Starting with some strummed, discordant riffs, the guitars change styles just as the vocals do. The presence of the guitar solo in what’s supposed to be a pop punk single proves Seth Johnson’s rock influences, and he plays the part pretty well. Hell To Sell is hard not to enjoy. The rhythm guitars quickly strum as the lead palm mutes the notes along with Danny’s vocal melodies. Hell To Sell strongly resembles The Audition’s upbeat style and proves to be a solid listen.
In fact, there’s not a single song on this album that I wouldn’t call enjoyable. However, the album as a whole really doesn’t show much diversity. While there’s a plethora of mentionable riffs and vocal hooks, there is a lack of musical maturity throughout Champion. Being relatively new to the pop-punk scene and having a mildly small (but strongly growing) fanbase, they’re not tied to any style, timeline, and they don’t have much of a reputation to lose with experimentation. Which is what this album is – a fun experiment testing the creativity of the musicians of The Audition. I can safely say that there’s not a single bad moment on the album, but it’s nothing more than a combination of a bunch of good riffs and melodies focused around the same emotions. The album as a whole is colorful, funky, and fresh, but still a little immature. The Audition is still a young band, and with time they’re going to mature into some serious hard-hitters with some great singles. Until then, however, they’ll make a great supporting act for the bigger bands.
Champion resembles the cumulative style of everyone in the band: nothing complicated, but far from conventional. It’s an album with an age and a personality, and it happens to be a cool teenager with erupting hormones. Can’t help to admit how fun it is to listen to, but can’t help to think how much better this band will get with time.