June, 2008, West Coast Performer Magazine
By Michael Fortes
The four guys in San Francisco-based Hot Challenge were smart to appropriate the dance grooves of bands like The Killers and She Wants Revenge. Danceable rock music has proven a sure bet in all its permutations over the years. While the music on Hot Challenge’s debut EP is not entirely original, the grooves and musicianship — coupled with solid pop songwriting — carry it forward.
With Evan Lane sticking to drums alone, brothers JP, Dave and Joe Rose (guitars, keyboards and bass, respectively) share vocal duties, which is one key element separating Hot Challenge from its contemporaries. The brothers’ two-part harmonies are a stand-out feature throughout “Wine,” with its distinctive dance club-ready synth riff, as well as in the choruses of the EP’s other songs. These harmonies especially elevate the chorus of another single-worthy entry, “Self-Treatment,” while they merely add texture to the relatively hook-less “Freedom.”
The album’s lone ballad, “Silver Stars,” is the one awkward spot on the disc. Opening with light, airy, ‘80s synth beats, the rhythm often dances around like it cannot decide whether it wants to swing. Halfway through, analog drums save the day, though the lack of contrast in the drum volume robs the song of dynamics.
More typical of the disc, however, is a balance between rock and dance elements, culminating in the brilliantly constructed “End of the World,” which plays like a hit waiting to happen with its chiming, U2-inspired guitars and engaging four-on-the-floor chorus accented by an off-snare beat.
At eight full songs, the disc is longer than the average EP, and probably could have passed for a full album in the early ‘80s. As it is, the economy of the disc serves it well in this promising start for a young new band.