There I was puttin' the flivver of doom through its paces down on the local shakin' street, thinking about the grand neatness of the nuclear dense pack theory and the inescapable "fact" of such beings as Andre the Giant and Mr. T, when suddenly the idea for this review of the new Journey album Frontiers, came loping into my consciousness like an amphetamine gazelle screaming for thorazine. (Was this a stroke of genius forming, or simply just a stroke? I couldn't figure it out.) The idea was to start the review by explaining how I'd start the review - y'know the ol' Citizen Kane (mirror) effect...
...After the flivver of doom cut a swath through a pool of dangerously agitated Oriental medical students, braking to a jerking halt in front of my face boozeteria, I realized that all of that intricate thinking had caused me to fall asleep at the wheel, momentarily evoking the hallucination that I was the insoles of James Brown's shoes on a "good" night, thereby causing to become my distractioned from the ever shifting tarmac of the shakin' street. Shakin' my head in time to the street, I further realized that NO, I was not in the flivver of doom after all, but instead had just fallen out of bed and gotten into a mild bondage scene with my headphones. What was the narcotic that almost put me into terminal nappyland? Yup, you guessed it, the new (rimshot) Journey LP, Frontiers. (God how I hate to write opening paragraphs.)
Anyway, it's not that Journey is a bad, or even dull, band, in fact they're usually just the opposite. Nor is Frontiers the canvas of lulled and dulledisms I painted it to be in those dreaded opening graphs. Instead, it has a certain originality which occasionally takes it above the usual metalloid yawns produced by the legions of coliseum plod rockers, like REO Spuzzwagon, Ferrigner, Nutzinger etc.
But it ain't metal like so many people like to believe it to be, and I just wanted to get that straight out front. Metal has more purity of essence, more power and less slickness. Journey is a band that relies more on intensity of production and lyric than on the leatherette unconsciousness of most nouveau metal. Though I should point out that a few trad-metal bands, like Def Leppard, are beginning to cross over into Journey's turf to explore the possibilities of that next big thing: pop metal.
Frontiers, then, is good enough to satiate the average pop-metal plodder. The song writing prowess of Steve Perry is dominant here, especially on songs like "Rubicon", (my fave on the record) the title toon and "Edge Of The Blade" with his pop proclivities coming to on tracks like "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" and "After The Fall". Coupled with the always intriguing playing of Neal (Hey-when-I-was-19-I-had-a-choice- between-joining-the-Stones-or-Santana) Schon and the keyboard work of ex-Baby Jonathan Cain, this album has a sneaky way of making you pay it some heed.
Of course, that's only if you're a normal person and not a metal pilgrim in search of the sonic-jihad to end all sonic-jihads. Which, unfortunately, is what my lot in life is. So what's a poor metalunatic to do when everybody starts to smell like adhesive tape, and he can't think of any more ways to really want to hurt Boy George? Listen to the new Journey album, I suppose, and drift off into the sleep and dreams of the never satisfied. It's either that or going out on a quest to find the G-spot of a mastadon.
Joe (We Think It Is A Vitamin Deficiency) Fernbacher
© Creem, June 1983, Creem Magazine Inc.