Various Artists – No Escape: A Tribute to Journey EP

Various Artists
No Escape: A Tribute to Journey EP

I’ve always considered myself to be somewhat of a closet Journey fan. Neal Schon has always been a favorite guitar player of mine, even though Steve Perry-era material doesn’t always give him a chance to shine all that often. Schon (and the rest of the band) saw their best work in the mid-70s, when the band was basically a progressive rock outfit led by Gregg Rollie, but that’s neither here nor there. Still, I’ve always considered Journey to be one of those bands like Cheap Trick – the type of band that writes solid songs, but just seems to get ragged on more often than they should.
Of course, I found myself a little excited when the beloved DOA editor told me he was sending me a Journey tribute CD. Yeah, go ahead, laugh all you want – I was even laughing at myself over it. Well, here I am, reviewing this tasty little nugget, and while I can’t really find anything terribly negative to say about this tribute, I have to say that, unfortunately, this whole shebang really wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
First off, I’ve never seen very many various artists tribute EPs. I’ve always assumed that the point of a tribute was to showcase a wide and diverse array of artists covering another band to show that band’s affect/interest level throughout the music world. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d hardly consider four songs to be a wide and diverse array.
However, those complaints only apply to the actual concept of the EP, as the music itself is surprisingly good. Michigan’s Wafflehouse* pull off the standout track, taking the best known Journey song included, “Separate Ways,” and post-hardcoring the living hell out of it while still leaving the song easily recognizable. The track opens with the telltale synth/keyboard line and even features a spot-on Schon-esque guitar solo. This is one of those rare cover songs that totally fits on a tribute album, but also wouldn’t have been out of place at all on Wafflehouse*’s latest release, Olympia.
Ohms give a perfectly passable (though really spooky) off-time, piano-laden rendition of “Anytime” that ends up sounding like something I’d expect to hear on the soundtrack to some artsy horror movie. Houston starts off with an atmospheric take on “Send Her My Love” that eventually turns to a dirty-buzz sound, courtesy of a massively fuzzy bassline and some distorted vocals, as well as the thick, chugging, sludgy guitar rhythms that end the track. Traindodge winds up the EP with what is the most faithful cover version here, a straight-ahead rocking version of “Only the Young” that certainly sounds good, though it’s not nearly as interesting as the three tracks before it.
Musically, while Traindodge offers a fairly untouched cover, the other three acts here are definitely the more worthwhile material, as they actually take the songs and do something remarkable / different than what is expected from them. Wafflehouse*’s interpretation easily takes the cake as the best thing here, though Ohms and Houston don’t have anything to be ashamed of in their own rights. I’ll go out on a limb and say that because those three tracks are solid, this EP would probably be a decent listen to anyone that’s already interested in those bands. Yes, the songs here are good, but with only four artists on here, I guess I’m missing the point somehow.