Time to stop searching for the *best* album of the summer. Although Third Day's Time has to come in a close second, Audio Adrenaline comes back will full force on their fifth album not as a musical underdog, but a powerhouse. The band brings forth their best album since Don't Censor Me, while successfully surpassing each album in talent, song craftmanship, tightness, bold message, and overall greatness.
Instead of going into the studio and recording for a few weeks with a renowned producer, the band decided to spend more time on the project and the results are obvious. For the first time producing by themselves, the band spent months in the studio to bring us a real musical treat.
From rock to swing to sophisticated ballads destined for the top of the charts, Underdog explores more styles much like Audio A did with their self-titled debut back in 1992. And much like their 4 previous albums, Underdog kicks off with a catchy rocker full of hope. "Mighty Good Leader," a heavy groove-driven power rock that should have their friends and labelmates, dc Talk shaking in their boots. The super catchy "Underdog" follows, a sort-of theme song for Christians who feel like they themselves are underdogs and alone in the world.
The first radio single off the album, "Get Down," sort of a "Big House 2" for the band, has literally replaced "Big House" as their encore/close out live number. "Get Down" has a bouncy style reminiscent of "Never Gonna Be as Big as Jesus" and "Big House" together. The song, and encouragement of God lifting us up when we fall, is bound to be a big hit.
Some other album highlights (and there are a lot) include "Good Life," a pop/rock ballad produced by Charlie Peacock, the inspiring rock-based praise song, "Hands and Feet," and a duet with Jennifer Knapp on the well-crafted remake of the praise classic "It is Well." Underdog not only has a serious side, but ventures into the realm of fun and silliness that hasn't been fully revisited since their debut album. In fact, they redo their famous "DC-10" off the same album in a 'swingabilly' style that will have old AA fans doing double-takes when they hear it. Prior to "DC-10" is "Jesus Movement," a song about the realization of Jesus being worldwide and not just in the U.S., appropriately played out with a Spanish guitar sound, electronic drum beat, horns, and a dog barking. But the song that takes the cake is "Houseplant." With the return of "Smooth Steve" from 1996's bloOm, "Houseplant" takes zaniness to a new level, being "set" in a coffee house with Bob singing about using houseplants to determine how bad rock music is.
From beginning to end, Underdog is a solid album with not a bad song in the bunch. The AA boys have out done themselves and have delivered their absolute best. Underdog is surely a must-have this year.- Review date: 8/16/99, written by John DiBiase
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