[28 January 2007]
When Saliva announced late last year that their new album, their first in nearly three years, would be called The Rise & Fall of a Glorified Kingdom, I had to applaud them for both the most autobiographical and appropriate title of their decade-spanning career. Since Saliva frontman Josey Scott appeared alongside Chad Kroeger on the Spider-Man soundtrack, a move that teemed with commercial potential, the group’s output has been steadily going downhill, with their last work, 2004’s Survival of the Sickest, recorded more from force of habit than for any musical benefit.
(Un)fortunately, it seems Saliva are as interested in remaining modern rock stalwarts as anyone else, and so a private joke between them and anyone who’d been paying attention to them was laid to rest and replaced with the title Blood Stained Love Story. And if that moniker sounds just slightly sappy and/or melodramatic, it’s nothing compared to some of the king-size clichés that crop up in the lyrics. “One More Chance”, “Never Gonna Change”, “Here With You”, “Going Under” –- about as predictable as radio-ready rock fare can get. Those two initial matters aside, however; Blood Stained Love Story is one of the strongest entries in the nu-metal crew’s catalog (which still isn’t saying much), for one very good reason:
Saliva sound like they believe it, too.
That isn’t to say we couldn’t have done without the painfully unnecessary first single “Ladies and Gentlemen”. A third-rate downtuned distortion-fest, the verses aren’t so much sung as spoken... in a monotonous swagger. This evolves into a suspiciously P.O.D.-esque chorus of shouting and bombast; “You are about to be bowled over”, Scott screeches self-importantly –- look who just made a funny!
For most of the rest of the disc, maturity proves the determining factor, and the music’s really not that bad if you can get past the eye-rolling three chords. Cuts like “Broken Sunday”, “Twister” and the aforementioned “Going Under” make use of soaring choruses and put likable, easy-on-the-ear melodies to good effect over churning guitars. “Why can’t I be normal like everyone else?” Scott wonders, completely earnestly, on the latter, surely the most involuntarily funny line of the disc. Elsewhere, “Starting Over” is the conventional acoustic ballad that, happily, is only boring about 50 percent of the time, and on closer “Here With You” they’re even brave enough to experiment with other instruments, while surely namedropping about half the cities in the United States -– there is some hope in this kind of style for the band, if anyone’s still listening by that time.
The album also periodically interrupts its consistency and growing-up theme for many a redundancy or washout. ‘Never Gonna Change’ is a slippery, no-nonsense love song sans so much soul and spine that it belongs with a boy band, not Saliva; particularly when they’re willing to follow it up with another dispensable “party track”, “King of the Stereo”. “Black Sheep” is hands down the worst, though: bearing an uncanny resemblance to the already unstomachable Nickelback hit “Animals”, it drags on for five plus minutes and insists on the constipated growling, “I’m a rebellious rocker” persona, forgetting things like, I don’t know, dynamics? To change chords every now and then? Give it up, guys. You’re not convincing anyone.
Anyway, the heartfelt qualities to several numbers must mean a lot to Blood Stained Love Story, because based on the sum of its tracks it’s unexceptional, on singing it’s unexceptional, on guitar-playing it’s unexceptional, and on the lyrics it’s really piss-weak. It’s not the first option you’d want to check out if you’re looking for the best of what’s on radio, therefore; but if this is already your type of music and you’re willing to sit through the plain awful among the tentatively good, then it may well satisfy; which, come to think about it, is kind of a take it or leave it circumstance. Nobody’s going to miss them if they decide to disappear completely after this release, but it could be worse -– at least they’re not Nickelback!