Toph's Unbiased Review of The Mission!

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Toph's Unbiased Review of The Mission!

Postby Toph » Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:39 am

Ok, its taken me a while to do this because I wanted to give this a number of listens and give my real perspective on this.

You all know how I feel about the current version of Styx.

You know how I hate that they still are trying to diss Dennis whenever they can (see $275 Grand Illusion commemorative record that features the existing band vs. the guys that worked on it).

You know how I hate that they try to ignore anything the band did from 1979-1999 and like to pretend Cornerstone, PT, Kilroy, Edge, and RTP don't exist.

You know how I hate that they think that Pieces of Eight was this fantastic album (despite the fact that one could argue its much less progressive than The Grand Illusion - BCM and Renegade are as straightforward rock as you can get) simply because Tommy had the two hit singles.

So, you know I really wanted to hate this album.

I really wanted to dislike and was set up to dislike and give you all a big "I told you so - they aren't shit without DDY."

Unfortunately, I can't.

This is a solid record.

Is it on level with GI or Paradise Theater? No.

Is it better than Cyclorama, Edge, BNW, Crystal Ball? Absolutely.

It falls in the Equinox, Cornerstone, Pieces of Eight, Styx II realm for me. Can't quite rank it because those other albums have different context for me. But I categorize it within these groupings of albums.

Here's what I like:
The theme! Hypocrisy aside, its an interesting storyline and they do a good job with the story and the song sequencing (maybe a miss with Mission to Mars being last, but overall strong).

I like the nod to classical music and classic Styx. A lot of it sounds like a Styx album. They did well here.

I like that whether through maturity or just time, there doesn't appear to be any disses of DDY in the entire album. That is refreshing.

What could be improved:
The hooks - its not as hooky as I would have liked. There is not one song (save the outpost and maybe gone gone gone) that give me an ear worm. But I don't think they were looking for "The Best of Times" 2017.

The lower range vocals - Maybe this is missing DDY, but a few songs, they need more bass/lower range in the chorus. More of a nit, but it is noticeable in some places. Does Gowan handle the low notes now?

They try really hard to be like other bands (Pink Floyd, APP, Rush) but I would have liked them to address early 80s Styx (which again, see point above, they try to ignore, but A LOT of people like that era of the band). You'll never get a straight ballad out of these guys, but that wouldn't have been so bad.

While there is a lot of acoustic on this, I don't get upbeat acoustic like Fooling Yourself, Sing For The Day, Lights, Never Say Never that was a hallmark of the Styx song. I would have liked to have seen more of that.

Here are my comments by song:
The Mission/Gone Gone Gone - Styx have always done a great job (most of the time) at starting their albums with an almost magic like quality that will dictate the theme of the album. This the classical pomp of Grand Illusion, the showman DDY with the piano on AD 1928/RTP, the tech-pop opening and robot voice of Mr. Roboto, and even the synth/acoustic beginning of “Lights” to signal that Cornerstone was a change in musical direction. Sometimes that didn’t work (Love is the Ritual signifying that Styx would be doing the hair band thing in the early 90s, I Will Be Your Witness went nowhere, and Do Things My Way showing that this would be an album dedicated to ridiculing founding member DDY). Happy to report that Overture/Gone Gone Gone falls in the former category. While not quite as good as the openers of GI, PT, or KWH, certainly on par (or better!) than the openers of Equinox, Crystal Ball, and Pieces of Eight and far superior to any album post 1983. Both exude energy and excitement and “Light It Up Let’s Get This Show On The Road” is as memorable as any recent Styx line since “Domo Ariagoto, Mr. Roboto.” Like Gowan in the role of ringmaster (like DeYoung in the earlier albums). As good as Shaw can be musically, he doesn’t exude the personality of a frontman, Gowan, like DeYoung, does. Good to have Gowan kick off this album. Great opener to kick off the album. In 1980 would have found a home on rock radio similar to a RTP or Grand Illusion. One of the catchier tunes on the album.

Hundred Million Miles – The momentum of the first song slows down with this one. Just ok. We have an energetic start with Overture/Gone Gone Gone and then we get Tommy Shaw solo song with 100 Million Miles, and it is something that sounds more like it should have been on 7 Deadly Zens that a Styx album. The Peter Frampton nod with the talking guitar doesn’t work – you’re Styx dammit. This is not really a Styx sounding song. Fine for a TS solo album, but not a Styx song. Here is the first instance where the vocals sound “thin” – there’s no foundation for them. Who sings the low notes? It’s just not as full as I would like here.

Trouble At The Big Show – God, no…please no. JY sucks. What is his purpose here? A few lines and then echoing what is actually na pretty good chorus. The harmonies are fine. Why do we need JY echoing them? I think the well is dry here for JY. Lets get back to Gowan and Shaw whose material is far better.

Locomotive – Ok, I’m not a huge Pink Floyd fan and this one has a lot of elements of Pink Floyd in it, so musically it isn’t my favorite. However, lyrically, it is very strong and I give Tommy and Will credit for tapping into the father-son emotions that are so present in this song. Some of Shaw’s most in depth and emotional lyrics in his career. So for that, it is a winner.

Radio Silence – We’ve have had kind of a mix bag over the first 4 songs. Radio Silence will either push the momentum forward or keep lagging behind. Luckily, it delivers! I have to admit, when I first heard this one, I didn’t like it that much. It’s not overly catchy at first. But it really has grown on me. Harmonies are solid,and the lyrical content works here. Again, quite a bit of lyrical depth here from Shaw (even though “hyperbolic fumes “ line may rival modren man in its cheesiness….). I I like the Man In The Wilderness feel – especially the guitar solo/bridge that has come right out of that song. Nicely done!

If you are playing this on LP you need to flip it over now and it enables you to take a step back on side 1. A solid effort, better than Cyclorama and better than Brave New World (neither a high bar). Solid, but Not spectacular. Let’s see what side 2 has to offer….

Side 2 is really, really strong. One of the band's all-time best side 2s.

The Greater Good – Beautiful song. Solid execution. Love the piano and the harmonies. A bit reminiscent of Kilroy Side 2 – JGTTN and HWBHB. Again, the lyrical depth is quite good (pardon the pun). Only nit – the chorus is not as catchy as it could be with the repetition of “The Greater Good” – just not that enticing of a hook. Love the back and forth though between Gowan and Shaw – really makes you feel like your in the midst of a conversation. Dare I say this is Broadway-esque?

Time May Bend – Like the obvious tip of the hat to Equinox at the beginning. Pretty good song, but short. Gowan doesn’t have anything to do with writing this song but he sings it well. Not mind blowing or overblowing, but not really filler. A connection to the next song…

10,000 Ways to Be Wrong/Red Storm – Good solid progressive feel that, while not a real rocker, does a good job of generating emotional angst and thus the energy stays high. Again, not a real “hook” here, but a solid climax of drama in the story. I have to say the story line is pretty solid. The best part of the song – after the most heavy guitar on the entire album, about 4:15 into it. Sounds like classic Styx. The end piano solo coming out of nowhere is really cool and does a nice auditory analogy to show the storm has passed.

All Systems Stable/Khedive/TheOutPost - Khedive really shows off Gowan’s classical skills. I give him credit – he is more classic trained than DDY and they should utilize this more and I'm glad they do here. The Outpost is the most Stygian song on the album. Its hooky and the harmonies are outstanding. Gowan’s lead is what it is, but the song’s chorus and catchiness remind me of classic Styx. My favorite song on the album.

Mission To Mars – I actually think this is one of the weaker songs on the album. It sounds just a bit too much like Gensi and BNW (reprise). Would be nice if they could have integrated earlier themes from the album here. But its not enough to pull a great side 2 down.

Given my feelings toward this incarnation of the band and how they've treated Dennis I wanted to blast this album out to space myself and give it an F. At best, a D.

I can't. Its too good. It gets a B+ in my book.

Fire away - I'm sure Monkey and Chicago will be all over me with critiques of my critique
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Re: Toph's Unbiased Review of The Mission!

Postby yogi » Sun Jul 16, 2017 4:51 am

No more Poth EVER. GREAT review!

For me on the CD Locomotive, Radio Silence & The Greater Good are three of the best back to back to back Styx songs ever in a row. I cant get past those three songs they stand so well on their own. I love them all.

I also really love 1000 Ways To Be Wrong leading into the Red Storm, and really like Overture leading into Gone Gone Gone & All Systems Stable&Khedive leading into The Outpost.

Your review was SPOT on for the most part. Sorry about me hammering DDY for his Nothing Ever Goes As Plan performance. I truly didnt know the back story at all.

Excellent review.
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Re: Toph's Unbiased Review of The Mission!

Postby ChicagoSTYX » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:20 pm

Wow! That was a really well thought out review! I pretty much agree with most of your comments on the songs. It really does seem to get better with time.

Wait..... did someone hack you message board account Toph? .... kidding

Great job!
STYX new album coming in 2020
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Re: Toph's Unbiased Review of The Mission!

Postby masque » Thu Jul 20, 2017 6:08 am

nicely done toph and I give you total props for owning up to the difficulty of embracing this album. Good for you, like I said, I think we call agree that STYX is the big three......and this version and DDY's version in the early 90's were versions of "styx". I think if more people accepted that then you could see this new album for what it is, and that's a great, well done album!
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Re: Toph's Unbiased Review of The Mission!

Postby ChicagoSTYX » Thu Jul 20, 2017 8:18 am

masque wrote:nicely done toph and I give you total props for owning up to the difficulty of embracing this album. Good for you, like I said, I think we call agree that STYX is the big three......and this version and DDY's version in the early 90's were versions of "styx". I think if more people accepted that then you could see this new album for what it is, and that's a great, well done album!

Well said.
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Re: Toph's Unbiased Review of The Mission!

Postby ztyxlynne » Thu Jul 20, 2017 10:10 am

Toph, great review you hit it right on the nose. I would have to say the only filler in this whole album is Trouble at the Big Show. I feel they had a right one for JY. Other than that yes I wish the album had some more hooks to it and maybe a real good strong rocker but other than that I give it a B+ also. I put it in my CD player in my car the day it was released and it has not left yet. Plenty of nods to Classic Styx on this album.

I know it's too early to say but like the group Kansas I hope they feel they're on some type of momentum here and it's not another dozen years until we hear new material.

And on a side note I hope DDY has a killer album coming out cuz you know people are going to compare it to this one.
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