This week my headphones have been half-filled with Stay Positive, the fantastic new album by The Hold Steady, who play at Chelsea's next Thursday. The Hold Steady follow in a line of great music from Minneapolis (even though they have relocated to Brooklyn, where I suspect we will all one day converge) in that like Prince and The Replacements, they reaffirm the zeal once had for music, no matter how jaded adulthood has made you. They still sing to the kids on Stay Positive, but they also sing to those singing to the kids, and pile up a lifetime of high-octane listening into each cataclysmic tale of teen love and druggy devastation.
During the guitar solo slyly uplifting "Lord I'm Discouraged," I tried to suss out what it reminded me of. It hit like photon torpedo from an eagle-shaped neon spaceship: Journey. I hadn't consciously listened to Journey since junior high school. I gave my copy of Escape to an Italian exchange student with whom I was hopelessly smitten, but with that transfer, Journey went to the back burner. Recently, however, they are everywhere. I stopped into the electronics department of a certain retail behemoth, pulling The Hold Steady out of my ears to witness Journey blasting out of each assembled flat screen, like the Aurora Borealis but with more color. Replacing Steve Perry as their singer seemed a dubious decision when Steve Augeri took the mic in 1998, but recent recruit Arnel Pineda, just a small-town boy from the Philippines who guitarist Neal Schon found on YouTube, does a rather convincing, even inspiring Perry squeal. Thus, the other half of my listening has been to Journey.
In continuing my re-Journey-fixation, I see Fronteirs -- A Tribute to Journey will land at The Varsity this week. I typically bypass tribute shows. Nothing against them personally; it's not really my thing. Bands like The Hold Steady wear their influences nakedly on their rolled-up sleeves and invoke them through their own voice and words, whereas tribute bands are conscious shadows of the original, mining veins that largely have dried up, or maybe never existed in the first place. But this confluence of Journey might be enough to pull me into their orbit. You never know, Neil Schon might be lurking in the shadows ready to anoint Jerry Hunsicker. But whether you go or simply dig out that worn copy of the greatest hits CD you bought on a whim, promise me you won't stop believin'.