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Pop Music Review

Fans Get a Rush From Audio Adrenaline's Spirit

March 23, 1998|MIKE BOEHM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In these alienated days, fans seeking the uplift, conviction and celebratory sense of shared striving that once defined rock have to take them where they can find them.

And something akin to the morale boost that Bruce Springsteen, the Clash, U2, Midnight Oil and early-'90s Pearl Jam used to provide was there for the taking Saturday as Christian rockers Audio Adrenaline and the O.C. Supertones shared a bill at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center. Of course, anyone not interested in literal-minded Bible belief had to take that something with a grain of salt.

Nashville-based Audio Adrenaline, on its first big headlining tour, can be criticized for the stylistic channel-changing characteristic of contemporary Christian music; previously an amalgam of heartland and alterna-rock styles, on its new album, "Some Kind of Zombie," Audio throws in with the distorted guitars and heavy, Zep-based arena-rock moves of the modern rock format.

Led by its sturdy-voiced, indefatigable front man, Mark Stuart, a Kentucky preacher's son who performed as if he were leading an old-fashioned Southern tent revival, Audio Adrenaline lived up to its name. The band exuded a unified, exuberant spirit in its performance and utter commitment to its material, although sound musicianship wasn't always enough to overcome murky sound quality.

Christian ska-punk may sound like dubious trend-hopping, but the O.C. Supertones elevate the dubious trend they've hopped. Matt Morginsky's froggy, nasal, son-of-Joe Strummer voice hit with gritty honesty and rode the delicious hooks planted in almost every song to soulful heights.

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