Despite a raw rookie sound and apparent room for improvement with the release of their debut album, The Audition shows great promise with an addicting and entertaining dose of pop punk on Controversy Loves Company. Lead singer Danny Stevens’ infectious, drawling wails are clearly aimed at a younger crowd, but the blazing guitar riffs of Seth Johnson and Timmy Klepek that accompany them provide some context as to the band’s musical maturity and skill. Though imperfect and inconsistent at times, Controversy Loves Company pulses with contagious pop punk energy and a few melodramatically fervent rockers. The contradiction between Stevens’ melody and the raw resonance of blaring guitars shouldn’t work this well, but The Audition controls an ever-escalating tempo efficiently for the most part, although there are a few lapses that just sound like overexcited noise for the sake of energy. It’s not the most compelling debut the genre’s seen, but Controversy Loves Company lays down a solid foundation for the future.
“Dance Halls Turn To Ghost Towns” lays the groundwork for the rest of the album’s energy, leading off with a blistering and catchy first single. Stevens’ melodic whines and wails combine with frenetic guitar riffs to establish the tempo, while Ryan O’Connor’s contagiously rhythmic drumming is sure to induce foot-tapping. The Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde references aren’t exactly original, but they get the job done much like Joe Lussa’s underlying bass hook.
While the album’s leadoff track provides energy and pace, “You’ve Made Us Conscious” gives a look at The Audition at their most irresistible. Stevens dominates the proceedings with crystal-clear pitch that showcases his impressive vocal range, while the guitar riffs are less intense and more upbeat to convey the lighthearted and endearing mood of the pointed lyrics: “Oh look at what we’ve all tried not to become, another fabricated self-portrait / Oh take another glance and remember we’re the ones setting you up to take our fall.”
The rhythmic bluesy guitar riffs of “It’s Too Late” make it another early highlight of Controversy Loves Company, followed up by its memorable, sing-along chorus. Stevens is superb as he is for the majority of the album, but what really stands out are the guitar hooks, which simultaneously relax and escalate with the rising and falling tempo.
There are a wealth of catchy and fast-paced tunes to enjoy on The Audition’s solid debut, making it an enjoyable albeit inconsistent first try. A few songs fail to hold the listener’s attention, sounding like much of the same due to a lack of variety. But for the most part, Controversy Loves Company rocks with the energy, fun and angst of early Sugarcult that fans of Valencia, Hit The Lights, Just Surrender, Mayday Parade, This Providence, Every Avenue and The Starting Line can all enjoy. Between the upbeat and encouraging “Don’t Be So Hard” and the epic and groovy closer “Smoke And Mirrors,” The Audition provides an engaging and enticing glimpse of what they can be with more development and artistic progression, starting with Stevens’ ultra-infectious vocals. There’s a definite need for progression as far as compositional elements are concerned, but this band’s appeal and lyrical intelligence shouldn’t ever come into question. Because as up-and-down as Controversy Loves Company is, it’s a solid starting point and a sign of promising things to come.
Final score: 7/10
Rank: 3rd (four total albums)
- Dance Halls Turn To Ghost Towns
- You’ve Made Us Conscious
- It’s Too Late
- Approach The Bench
- The Ultimate Cover Up
- Don’t Be So Hard
- Rep Your Clique
- La Rivalita
- Smoke And Mirrors