[11 May 2003]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
So asked The Sex Pistols’ inimitable Johnny Rotten of a crowd in San Francisco in 1978. As the band imploded before his eyes, Rotten knew the evening’s performance was a shameful ruse; a blatant rip off perpetrated on an unsuspecting public. Now, 25 years later, his query could have as easily been made in reference to Urinine’s most recent tribute release.
On paper, an album honoring Journey posed an interesting, if not curious, idea. Although hugely successful in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Journey was consistently viewed by critics as a musical eunuch, all style with minimal substance. This perception was not altogether inaccurate as the band dominated the charts with other integrity challenged gold/platinum record sellers like Styx and REO Speedwagon. After morphing into an arena pop rock behemoth from humbler beginnings as a prog/jazz outfit, there is no denying that Journey had its proverbial moment in the sun, ruling the airwaves with songs as diverse as “Open Arms”, “Don’t Stop Believin’”, “Wheel in the Sky”, and “Any Way You Want It.” The prospect of an album’s worth of hits given new life via the tribute route should have sufficiently whetted most Journey fans’ appetites. Even more tantalizing were the thoughts of which artists might have partaken in such a project, and who could have done justice to Steve Perry’s achingly desperate vocal style. Billy Joel playing “Faithfully”? No Doubt taking on “Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’”? Ah, the possibilities . . .
Alas, No Escape does not come close to its perceived potential. Perhaps the brain trust at Urinine Records felt that a dozen or so covers of Journey classics would be too much. Perhaps they encountered logistical problems in luring established acts to participate. Perhaps they owe Journey fans a profound apology for foisting this unmitigated disaster upon the record-buying consumer. Perhaps they should simply be banished into a soundproof booth and forced to listen to their sonic Frankenstein monster ad infinitum.
Highlighted as “The anticipated fourth release in the lauded Urinine tribute series . . .”, No Escape is nothing more than a poorly disguised EP. Worse still, is the fact that the included groups are without question, four of the sorriest bar bands one could ever encounter.
Track one, features Kansas City group Ohms covering “Anytime”. Most recognized by Journey mavens from the live album Captured, this version of the song incorporates equal parts piano and excruciatingly earnest singing, the results of which find the cover falling somewhere between vintage ‘80s Joe Jackson and prime ‘90s Radiohead. Not exactly a sound mixture to revel in.
Track two goes a step further into the abyss by having Minneapolis band Houston offer its rendition of “Send Her My Love” from the album Frontiers. Exhibiting a complete inability to harness feedback and create something positive, the band conjures up a noise akin to a transistor radio heard through a faulty telephone connection. Apparently dissatisfied with this level of ineptitude, the group affords the song a monumental finale that resembles the worst of cheap Danzig imitations.
But wait, there’s more!
The third spot on this musical monstrosity is filled by Detroit’s own wafflehouse* covering the song “Separate Ways”, also from the album Frontiers. Urinine executives must have searched Karaoke clubs the world over to find a singer this devoid of talent. Listeners are forced to endure an eternity of stupendously bad vocals, only to be subjected to the repeated screech of “No!” at song’s end. No, indeed.
The fourth, and thankfully final cover is a version of “Only the Young” performed by Oklahoma City’s Traindodge. It is five minutes of useless bar band excess, which according to conservative calculations, is exactly four minutes and 59 seconds too long. The only redeeming quality of this track is that it is the least horrific of them all. Enough said.
As embarrassing as this release is, Urinine staff should be proud of one noteworthy achievement: No Escape: A Tribute To Journey is already a leading candidate for Worst of 2003. Music fans can only pray that their favorite respective bands are never targeted for similar “tribute” treatment. And for those that dare spend the advertised $6.98 on this abomination of a CD . . . Caveat emptor.