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March 28, 2004

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My first iteration of this review was fairly mixed. I wrote that Challenger’s debut was energetic at best, but mostly muddled and unspectacular. But a week later I’ve decided that somebody had just dropped valium in my Cheerios that morning, because Give People What They Want In Lethal Doses is already one of my favorite rock albums of the year. Challenger has a near-perfect blend of the best of yesterday’s punk and the most vigorous of ‘modern’ rock energies.

The first draft of this review started off with a little anecdote about the state of punk rock and what it’s become, especially in the last five years. Where Challenger connects to the sorry condition of this once-glorious style is that it hearkens back to the punk of a decade or two ago, yet all the while giving a listener the impression that they really are drawing honest inspiration from their punk godfathers instead of outrightly copying them. But being not a great fan of punk, my first few listens through Give People What They Want was almost forced; it was only over time that the record grew on me and also, served as an introduction to the passion and energy of what good, modern punk music can be.

There’s not a sleeper on this record. Each song features dual-guitar work that stuns with its ballistic energy and vocals that rage and soar and fit perfectly with the other pieces of Challenger’s musical make up. And despite their aged roots, their music never fails to stack up against all the modern post-punk/hardcore heavyweights of today in terms of energy and passion. Think Thrice or Thursday, but without the glossy sheen and blimp-sized choruses of the former or the trauma-stricken melodrama of the latter. Perhaps the middle section of the record begins to drag ever so slightly, but by the time you hit the eighth or ninth on this 10-song collection, they’ve reclaimed every ounce of their vitality and are charging like bulls to the finish. The penultimate “Crushed City” has a chanted mantra of “I’m thinking bad thoughts almost every night” that will staple itself to your brain for days upon days.

Further notes on Challenger: If the opportunity to see them live presents itself, seize it: the rawness and passion of this record promise a mind-fucking show. If at first you don’t take to it, keep listening. And keep your ears open for this band in the future.

Rating: 4.5/5


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