Not really on par with their 1980s classics, Journey’s latest proves they can still manage huge hooks and heart wrenching choruses
Forgive the cliché, but what’s said about good wine applies to Journey.
The all-American rock band responsible for such awful karaoke staples as Don’t Stop Believin’, Separate Ways, and Faithfully are back with Eclipse, a fresh collection of fist pumping anthems sautéed in occasional tenderness. Those familiar with the full Journey oeuvre are bound to welcome this return to form. Keep in mind that prior to the band’s 1980s greatness they were an established hard rock group whose members sessioned for Santana. The tutelage meant that they didn’t shy away from progressive experimentation and gen- eral weirdness. This changed when Steve Perry joined their ranks, his golden throat paving the way for the bulletproof hits mentioned above and general mainstream acceptance.
The history lesson over with, the present material recalls Journey’s pre-Anyway You Want It manliness with a special emphasis on large hooks, larger choruses, and occasional segues of unexpected complexity. Opening salvo City of Hope is an encouraging listen and doesn’t let its positive message ruin the song’s edge. Journey has always been a feel-good band, which explains why their LSS-inducing hit single Anyway You Want It proved irresistible for a cringe-inducing Glee cover. Casting the nightmare of Glee aside, Journey’s positive outlook and undying belief in the power of love is a permanent fixture in the quintet’s discography. Eclipse is no exception with its obvious nods to passionate relations with the opposite sex in several tracks, including Chain of Love, She’s A Mystery, Someone, Ritual, and Tantra. Of course, Journey is a lot more besides occasional lapses into the realm of lovelorn troubadours. Eclipse has many ball-breaking songs that will gratify the diehard fanboys who might be reduced to fits of air guitar once they behold Neil Schon’s wizardry.
The most interesting parts of the album are always the ones that deviate from the norm. This applies to Human Feel, the previously mentioned Tantra, and Anything Is Possible. The closing instrumental farewell Venus is equally recommended as its hypnotic musicality plants a final goodbye kiss on the listener’s stimulated consciousness. In summation, Eclipse sounds destined to carry on the tradition of Journey’s multi-platinum world beater from 1983 Frontiers, a seminal released often hailed as the band’s graduation to arena gods. This is evident not only in the songs, but the presence of Journey’s longstanding scarab mascot on the cover, a graphic tradition that dates back to the Departure album. This fealty to the classic Journey aesthete signifies they are preserving a hallowed tradition, which is making people’s hearts melt from sheer melodic power.
But no matter how much they stay true to their legacy, Journey circa 2011 is a different beast. The lyrics on Eclipse are spiritually inclined to the point of preaching and Arnel Pineda’s impressive vocals are no longer susceptible to Steve Perry comparisons. What does seem to be amiss in an otherwise pleasant album such as Eclipse is the production. Like most of their studio efforts in the last few years, Eclipse was recorded independently. Though Journey has the means to create sterling music, the production here suffers a bit. The essential guitar tone lacks heftiness, the keyboards aren’t as symphonic, and the bass could've been louder. Despite these avoidable shortcomings, Eclipse is hardly a dull listen.
Print ed: 09/11