A-180 originally formed in the late 1980’s at Kentucky Christian University. They changed their name and released their self-titled debut as Audio Adrenaline in 1992. Over the years their songs such as ‘Big House’, ‘Never Gonna Be as Big as Jesus’, ‘Hands and Feet’, and ‘Ocean Floor’ have had a tremendous impact on young people. The band won two Grammy’s but lead singer Mark Stuart’s voice eventually deteriorated and they put out their final project LIVE IN HAWAII in 2007. Fast forward to 2013 and Audio Adrenaline is back with several new members. The current lineup is: Kevin Max (vocals, from DC TALK), Jason Walker (keys, vocals), Jared Ryan Byers (drums, from Bleach), Dave Ghazarian (guitar, from Superchick), and Will McGinnis (bass, founding member of Audio A). Their new album is KINGS AND QUEENS (Fair Trade/Columbia).
The album opens with ‘He Moves You Move’ penned by Jason Walker and Mark Stuart. Musically it makes me think of a warm summer day. The song addresses those of us not given to taking risks: “You, you’re scared to take a step, afraid to see what’s next/So you wait ‘til you think it’s safe to move/You tend to think too much/You need to open up your heart to see where He is leading/With a lamp just for your feet, a spotlight just for your path/When He moves, you’ve got to move, you know/You’ve got to lose control, let go.” The album’s lead single and title track ‘Kings and Queens’ was written by Juan Otero, Joel Parisien, and Chuck Butler. This inspirational anthem points out the difference we can make by being charitable to or adopting needy children, many of whom are orphans: “Boys become kings, girls will be queens/Wrapped in Your majesty/When we love, when we love the least of these/Then they will be brave and free, shout Your Name in victory/When we love, when we love the least of these/When we love the least of these.”
‘Believer’ is a declaration of sure faith: “I can push back the mountains, can stand on the waves/I can see through the darkness, I’ll hold up the flame/Take me to the ocean, I want to go deeper/I’m not afraid no, I’m a believer/And so I lose this life to find my way and come alive/They can try to deny what’s inside of me/But there is more, can’t ignore all the things unseen.” One of three songs penned by the trio of Mark Stuart, Seth Mosley, and Kevin Max, is up next. ‘King of the Comebacks’ is a funkified pop song about the value of perseverance: “Time’s ticking down, we’re on the edge of our seat/Only a mighty good leader gonna make us believe/We’ve heard all about it, now we’re waiting to see/The end of the story and it isn’t defeat/So c’mon, yeah c’mon/Oh, Oh, all over the world/We wait for the miracle and it’s coming/You know it’s a matter of fact/You’re the king of the comebacks.”
‘Change my Name’ has a chorus that packs a musical punch and asks for spiritual rejuvenation: “Go ahead and change my name/And write a new song with this broken man/I want a restart, so take my old heart/It’s Yours to burn Your brand/Go ahead and change my name/’Cause the old man is deep in the grave/No more chains, no more shame/My God, I’ve been remade/Change my name.” Blanca Callahan from Group 1 Crew adds some vocal flavour to the next track, ’20:17 (Raise the Banner)’. The song is inspired by an occurrence in the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles: ”Put the armies in the back and the singers in the front/We swore to believe so no matter the chance we sing.../Whom shall we fear?/No one, no one/We put our weapons down/Whom shall we fear?/No one, no one/We raise up worship now.”
Martin Smith and Nick Herbert wrote “Fire Never Sleeps’ which musically reminds me of Michael Tait era Newsboys. These words should keep us from approaching God without reverence: “Burn all my soul, set me on fire/Burn all my soul, light up my fire, burn all my soul/Stop, I never want to miss You, something new is being born/And we were born for this/Lord, we know our day is coming/When we look into Your eyes/And see a Fire never sleeps/The fire never sleeps.” ‘Seeker’ speaks of the greatness of our Maker: “This is God, Seeker of the lost/And forever Father to the fatherless/He’s the Hope of the world, every boy, every girl/He’s the Answer/This is God (2X).../Father to the fatherless, Defender of the weak.”
Track nine, ‘I Climb the Mountain’, is a great song by Anthony Skinner and Ricky Jackson. It puts me in mind of the artistry of U2. It also encourages us to share the gift of salvation with others: “Why am I so scared of conversations?/Am I so sure I’ll turn you off?/Maybe if you knew the whole story, you’d understand it all/’Cause Truth has a way of breaking through.” ‘The Answer’ has concert favourite written all over it. Many who have wandered away from Christ and came back will be able to relate to its message: “And when I rise and when I fall, You are The Answer/I know it’s true ‘cause I’ve tried it all/You are the Answer../Lights come on, it’s a brand new start/Old illusions seem to fall apart every day, we’re making history/Never the same as we used to be/Flesh and bone, heart and soul/Hard drive upload, reinstall/A new sunrise through these newborn eyes/I’ve found The Way, The Truth, The Life.”
KINGS AND QUEENS is not a Kevin Max solo record. Nor is it the terrific raspy voiced rock and roll of Audio A’s past. Instead, this new line-up has released an infectious, contagious Christian pop album. Sure, there is certainly room for growth both musically and lyrically, but overall it is a good first effort. Fans of Downhere, Newsboys, and Sanctus Real should give this project, which I’m rating 84%, a listen. For more info visit www.audioa.com and www.handsandfeetproject.org.