Any band that lists Peter Gabriel as an influence is going to have to be pretty special for me to change my already made-up mind. Unfortunately for Challenger, they seem to have put no effort in whatsoever. Admittedly, synth-pop isn’t really my favourite genre of music, but bands like MGMT and Empire of the Sun are so much better.
As soon as Back to Bellevue starts, the 80s influences are apparent. Unfortunately the album seems like a collection of unreleased tracks from Pet Shops Boys, New Order or the Human League. There are a few highlights, but as soon as I start enjoying a song, Challenger try their best to stop that. There are a tremendous amount of effects on the vocals, and the shifts in pan are enough to give you a headache if you listen to it with headphones. There are several catchy parts, which make it hard to hate it completely, but they are few and far between.
However, the final song ‘Sorry’ is completely different, and is the best song on the album. The synth is ditched in favour for drums and guitars, and ‘Sorry’ is an incredibly catchy pop song, bearing similarities to Idlewild. It’s a breath of fresh air, but unfortunately the album ends without any more good songs.
– Alex Ryan