The trend in non-fiction literature as of late has been to title books with a snappy, concise name and then attach an absurd, ridiculously long subtitle, just to be clear on exactly what the author’s intentions were. So then, if this was my book, my subtitle would be: No, It Really Isn’t Like Throwing A Poodle In The Pitbull Cage, The New Album Just Ain’t That Good.
And it really ain’t that good. Following the Eagles’ lead, Journey has made Wal-Mart the sole seller of their physical product, a three-disc set called Revelation. When we pop culture pundits first heard of the Eagles plan for Long Road Out Of Eden, we scoffed. Desperate, we cried! Pandering, we tittered. Bloody dang effective, none of us said, yet the CD sold many, many copies without ever actually spawning a “hit” song. It was recently announced that AC/DC will be doing the same. I suppose, in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. We think in generalizations of the type of person who frequently shops at Wal-Mart — their income bracket, their tastes — but some things are certain. The average purchaser is probably of an age to have seen the glory days of all three of the aforementioned acts. While they probably have iPods, they still buy CDs and do not rely solely on digital downloads. While the rockist, elitist indie snob shuns the negative connotations of buying from Wal-Mart, there are people who do all their weekly shopping there, from groceries to electronics to tires, and they tend not to be enthused by whatever Dan Deacon or Animal Collective drops this week.
Journey’s Revelation was not made for a rockist, elitist indie snob. It may not have even been made for the band’s causal fans. This is for the guy (or gal) that wants 1981 all over again, the year that Escape dropped, AOR history was made and the dreaded spawn known as the “power ballad” plummeted from Evil’s angry uterus. It doesn’t matter that you really kinda dig “Open Arms,” either. Hitler painted landscapes, and what’s your point? My point is that Revelation lacks a heartbeat, a sense of passion or spontaneity and sounds more like a faded fan’s wish list, clicked off item by item and committed to digital file. First, in direct contradiction to the remaining band’s insistence that “Journey is a whole lot more than the band that backed Steve Perry,” they want you to welcome (cough, with open arms, cough) Arnel Pineda. Pineda is the scariest of pod-people in that he sounds exactly like Perry except for a Filipino accent. He even looks a bit like Perry (except for other Filipino accents). The man can wail and rock and stand on his own merits, but that isn’t why he was hired.
The story on that: he was plucked from YouTube obscurity when (reportedly) Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain heard him with his band The Zoo. Excited that they had found their perfect Perry doppelganger, they touched and went their separate ways from current vocalist Jeff Scott Soto. Fine. Okay. Let us for a minute understand that a former vocalist for Yngwie Malmsteen probably wasn’t a snug fit for Journey, and the fans expected a certain sound. Pineda offers exactly that, but in the process becomes just another check off the list. 70% of the songs being empowerment paeans sounding a lot like “Be Good to Yourself” — check. 20% of the songs being chest-pounding ballads of eternal love and devotion sounding awfully close to “Faithfully” — check. One song that sounds like “Lights” — yup. Oh, and an instrumental that attempts to fold in a world music vibe and just sounds messy. There we are.
It isn’t that this reconstituted band is trying to make new music that bothers me. I’m not even ticked about their choice of replacements, figuring that in spite of their protestations down they years, they know who their frontman was/is. They gotta do what they gotta do. I am, however, perplexed as to what they’re trying to prove by making an album that doesn’t provide a single track that will be remembered after the disc is done, much less five or ten years from now. Call them guilty pleasures if you will, but there is entertainment to be had from tunes like “Lights,” “Who’s Crying Now,” “Mother, Father,” and “Any Way You Want It” — and none on the new CD. It is an exercise in trying to revise history, as if to gloss over the lost years of Soto and Steve Augeri, a couple albums and tours of lesser stature. Worse, the band knows it. Why else to record a second disc of Pineda doing the ‘classic’ tunes? Why offer a third disc, a DVD, with a performance mashing up the past and the present, attempting to shoehorn in Arnel while wedging out the ever-present memory of Perry?
Ultimately, I believe they know full well why. They’re not counting on the quality of the new material to see them through. They’re banking on a fuzzy, nostalgic perception of band camaraderie, big hair, jean vests and t-shirts. They needed to do everything they could to facilitate the illusion, like a scheming Madeline preying on the heartsick and naive Scotty (it’s a Vertigo reference! Teh cool!), but who’s getting tossed off the mission bell tower this time — Journey 2008, or their hapless fans hoping against hope that mullets come back into fashion (or at least the hair plugs grow in convincingly)? And, after all my moaning, does it matter? Long Road Out of Eden produced nothing that will stand the test of time, but shifted serious units. If that’s the bottom line, then Journey will be rewarded for the hard work, effort and finances they put up to produce a grainy-looking photocopy of their former selves.
Some post-scripts to previous posts: regular readers of my column are bright, insightful and overall a wonderful bunch of guys and gals. Some of you are sneaky, though. Don’t think I didn’t notice our voting block of a month or so ago filled with fence-riders like, “I’m voting for a column about Bob Mould but I’d kinda like to see one on Bruce Cockburn too.” You cheeky buggers, you.
It is my duty to then report that I am currently working on articles about Cockburn and Mould, but not because you voted Chicago-style… You’re all so damn cute. How could I ever hold a grudge?
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull was, overall, a very entertaining movie. However, it lacked the joy and energy that even Temple of Doom had and winds up number 4 in the quartet. Too much CGI, a distinct feeling that these actors no longer were the roles but were only actors playing them and an all too apparent sense that you can’t go home again just undercut the hell out of the proceedings (for further examination of this phenomena, re-read my article above concerning Journey.) The original Raiders of the Lost Ark and both sequels stayed in the theaters for the summer’s entirety. Crystal Skull was ousted from the top spot in one week by four horny, shop-aholic chicks and, in about a month’s time, is on the way to the second-run outlets.
Four days and counting and Katie Couric still hasn’t contacted Popdose. The dream is over. Someone play us out with a sad Journey power ballad.