The Audition - Self-Titled Album
Record Label: Victory
Release Date: April 28, 2009
Pop punk and gymnastics have more in common than one might think. Both sexes can play along, things aren't always easy, and both dabble with a similar formula, striving to achieve goals that will land one in the top spot: timing, delicacy, grace and most importantly, nailing the perfect landing; the execution is crucial, because if you fail to hit it right, everything else doesn't seem to matter.
For The Audition, it's a perplexing notion that they'd get a wonderful producer in Mark Trombino (Jimmy Eat World, Midtown) and then come up with a cheeky yet unimaginative title for their third release, Self-Titled Album, following last year's fairly well-received Champion. While the last record followed their surprisingly fresh debut with sexually-charged arena rock, many fans were hoping the band would go back to basics and hit the notes that first got them recognized. Trombino certainly gives the band the right tools on keeping their sound level, but what follows is a run-of-the-mill, uneven combination of 10 tracks that aren't sure where they're going and what they want to do.
In one instant, the band is channeling their debut, starting and finishing with two bombastic rock cuts that slowly reach a pinnacle of great, energetic success ("The Running Man," "Sign. Steal. Deliver."). Yet the next moment, they're seductively orchestrating a sugar-coated (yet somewhat hypnotic) dance beat ("My Temperature's Rising"; and to terrible effect on "Over My Head"), recalling parts of Champion. It's a rock-dance fusion, and at times, it's perfectly called for -- then it makes the Audition look like they are peddling to the current scene trend, which relies of bland hooks and is stuffed with overproduced sheen. When the band kicks it into high gear, it's time to crack open a sixer and let the good times roll -- but when the bridge comes, there's a standstill, and it keeps the energy condensed to the choruses (no guitar solos?! COME ON!).
One noticeable improvement is vocalist Danny Stevens, who has toned down his vocal approach quite a bit, after aiming to hit every corner of the planet on the last album. Here, he sings with enough volume to keep the heavier cuts flowing, his libido helping them to trickle along. He's not pitch-perfect 100% of the time, sometimes offering a high-pitched wail and a background gargling sound (see: "Over My Head"), however, Stevens steps up on this record and goes for broke. Without missing a beat, he sounds more confident, redefined and finally seems like he is the voice of this band (check out the Bon Jovi sounding "The Way You Move"). The problem is more in the presentation of the slower songs, which want to be casually charming, but rarely garner any deserved attention ("It's Gonna Be Hard (When I'm Gone)" is standard power ballad stuff). The blend of pop and melodramatic instrumentation lacks sincere energy and doesn't mesh with the adrenaline-rush numbers... or maybe it's the other way around.
And there's the rub: Self-Titled Album is not sure if it wants to get you up to rock out, serenede you backstage or keep things drowned in pure, unadulterated pop lust ("Love With a Motive"). "Los Angeles" hints at stellar qualities, but lacks a genuinely appealing hook, and "Stand On Your Feet" has palpable energy, but relies far too much on repetition to get its point across. This is primarily the type of focus you'd expect Trombino to come in and pull a bandage over, however, it seems the First Aid kit was left at home in favor of giving the record a nicely-polished sound (did he just ignore the dreadful verses in "Everybody is Somebody Else's Secret"?). Trombino heightens the vocals and the drum beats, ensuring we're hearing the rhythm in everything -- which is more effective on an album built for the dance floors, not a pop punk record... or a big rock record... well, we'll call it one or the other.
Like playing Connect the Dots on speed, you know you're supposed to be creating a picture, you're just not entirely sure of what line connects to the other. "I'm being held captive," screams Stevens in the opening cut. Unbind those chains and let this man snack on those tasty notes of passionate pop fury, and rid yourself of the muddled big-rock sound with a penchant for sexual overtones -- The Audition should know that when they put it on full throttle, with just a tad of sexual appetite, they get the party started. On Self-Titled Album, the party seems too poorly planned to get any real momentum going. No gold medal for these guys, sorry.
I'm still not sold on the album, but am sold on the Audition, which is why I think I haven't made a final decision. Controversy, to me, is still their best album and I had never heard anything but bad things about Champion. I did, however, enjoy that album. With that said, I can see what Chris is saying. It's catchy in a bunch of places, slow in several others, and in the end you're left wondering if they just recorded a ton of songs and then randomly grabbed a bunch to make this record.
I actually like this better than Champion, but Controversey will always be my fave. I love the Audition for the fact they like to mix things up and can have dance songs and rock songs on one cd.They aren't afraid to have a mix of things and do them all really well. And I'm loling at the Bon Jovi comparison, because really when was the last time you saw anything being compared to Bon Jovi?