Survivor – Reach (2006)
purchase this album (Amazon)

You read that right, bitches. Survivor, as in “Eye of the Tiger,” and 2006, as in this year. Didn’t know the band was still kicking? You’re far from alone, and for good reason: Survivor hasn’t released any non-compilation albums since Reagan was in office, and even when they were putting out new music on a regular basis, they weren’t exactly the type of group that many people got too worked up over. Yes, they had hits, but they were never anything more than a tougher REO Speedwagon — the sort of resolutely Midwestern, meat-and-potatoes outfit that used to be able to sell buttloads of records simply through sheer force of will and non-stop touring. The type of band whose sound was so anonymous that not only could you not tell whether any given song had been recorded by them, but which of Survivor’s interchangeable lead vocalists was singing.

Given all of that, Reach is a surprising, honest-to-God treat. It’s the sound of a group of guys who are 100% comfortable in their skin, completely at ease with their place (or lack thereof) in the rock firmament, and happy just to go on making their brand of good old rock & roll.

Which, in retrospect, doesn’t sound so anonymous after all. It’s quite possible that this has more to do with the fact that nobody sounds like this anymore than with any actual originality in the band’s sound, but whatever — I never much cared for Survivor in its heyday, but couldn’t help feeling warm rushes of nostalgia when listening to Reach. Feelings, actually, surprisingly similar to those I experienced when hearing Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature for the first time.

Ha! Survivor and Steely Dan, brushing shoulders in a single review. That’s the kind of cutting-edge criticism you come here for.

All joking aside, this is the kind of rock record nobody seems to know how to make anymore, not even the people who got rich making them twenty years ago. It retains all of the bluster and arms-wide-open bombast of the best ’80s mall rock, but doesn’t sound embarrassingly dated; neither, though, does it make any embarrassing concessions to current trends. It’s sort of…awesome, in a very square, fairly limited way.

You don’t believe me, I can tell, and that’s okay. Listen to the title track (download) and “One More Chance” (download) anyway.