Sounds like … modern pop/rock along the lines of Sugar Ray and Third Eye Blind, with a dose of U2At a Glance … though not their best work, Lift is generally good and won't disappoint fans of the dependable and consistent sound of Audio Adrenaline.
One of Christian music's most popular and enduring artists, Audio Adrenaline has been together as a band for 11 years now. They commemorated their first ten years with the greatest hits album, Hits Parade, released earlier this year (probably one of the best greatest hits albums I've heard). Now entering a new chapter of their career, Audio Adrenaline find themselves in a time of transition. Since 1999's Underdog album, guitarist Tyler Burkum and drummer Ben Cissell have both married, bassist Will McGuiness has welcomed his second child into the world, and keyboardist/guitarist Bob Herdman has left the band to focus more on operating Flicker Records, the band's self-started record label. With all the changes going on in the lives of the band members, fans will be happy to learn that Audio Adrenaline's sound remains comfortably consistent.
Early reports a year ago indicated Audio Adrenaline was planning to release a praise and worship album. Indeed the lyrics on Lift are vertically focused, but interestingly enough, the album isn't really being marketed as a worship album. Perhaps Forefront and Audio Adrenaline wisely recognized that releasing an album of worship music is no longer a unique and unusual artistic move? In any case, I'm glad they're not exploiting that angle and instead are letting the songs speak for themselves. Ironically, it forces me to tell you that this is Audio Adrenaline's most worshipful album to date. The combination of their accessible and melodic rock with the worshipful lyrics will appeal to the group's core fanbase of youth groups. "Ocean Floor" in particular is a fitting illustration of how far God's grace and forgiveness has removed our sin.
Lift also represents an increase in collaboration between the band members, with Ben and Tyler joining Will and lead vocalist Mark Stuart in more of the songwriting than ever before. Tyler is also featured more as a vocalist this time, trading lead vocals with Mark on songs such as "This Is Everything," "Speak to Me," and "Ocean Floor." The result is a slight shift to a more straightforward modern rock sound. Audio Adrenaline surprisingly sounds a lot like U2 on many of these songs, particularly the Achtung Baby rock sound of "You Still Amaze Me" and the album's best track, "Tremble," which recalls U2's "Running to Stand Still" off their Joshua Tree album. There are still plenty of other tracks that sound more like the band's traditional style. Their Red Hot Chili Peppers funk-rock sound remains intact for "Rejoice," and "I'm Alive" is classic Audio Adrenaline — in fact, it sounds almost too much like "Mighty Good Leader."
Lift is unquestionably a good album, but just how good is it? There's not a bad track on the album, and some of the songs are quite excellent, but I still get a been-there-done-that feeling while listening to the album. Part of the problem may lie in the fact that there are so many other groups now with a similar Christian modern rock sound — By the Tree, Tait, MercyMe, and Among Thorns to name a few. It's also unreasonable to expect a band to improve with every album, though Lift is certainly not a step backwards either. Of Audio Adrenaline's six full-length albums, I'd rank Lift squarely in the middle. It's not as loud and bombastic as Some Kind of Zombie, and it's a higher quality than the band's first two albums. On the other hand, Lift isn't as hook-laden and impressive as Underdog, nor is it as catchy and classic-rock driven as their much-loved Bloom album, but it comes close to those two. This album demonstrates a slight maturation in sound for Audio Adrenaline, while still pushing all the right buttons to appeal to fans of the group.