Saliva – Survival of the Sickest Review

Saliva – Survival of the Sickest
Island/Def Jam, 2004

1. Rock & Roll Revolution
2. Bait & Switch
3. One Night Only
4. Survival of the Sickest
5. No Regrets, Vol. 2
6. Two Steps Back
7. Open Eyes
8. Fuck All Y’all
9. I Want You
10. Carry On
11. Razor’s Edge
12. No Hard Feelings
14. Sex, Drugs & Rock-N-Roll (hidden track)

Current trends in rock music hearken back comparatively to the big hair rock bands of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Rock radio was saturated with 1500 bands that just barely managed to sound different from one another. The formula was tried-and-true, so only the rarest of folks would venture off course. Typically, it would be those stragglers who would stick around longest and create footnotes in rock history. So with great anticipation, one may hope to pick up the latest from Saliva and find something to break them from the Puddle of Nickelcreed slab into which they have long since been lumped.

Unfortunately, there seems to be quite a bit working against Saliva. While they are quite obviously from the South, with many boogie touches occasionally touching throughout their tunes, they’re most certainly under a niche thumb. The record label knows what to expect from them, and they most certainly deliver almost a stereotypical checklist of items. Bombastic Creed-like ballad? “Open Eyes,” check! Angry anthem about how everyone and everything sucks? “Fuck All Y’all,” check! Songs about your rock credibility? Too many to count, check!

In fact, while there’s nothing offensive whatsoever about the disc (aside from language that would make your grandmother weep openly), there’s something particularly irritating to hear song after song about the wonderful but difficult life of a rock star. Opening with “Rock & Roll Revolution,” Saliva kicks off proclaiming, “you’ll never save the world if all you do is whine” and that “real rock ‘n’ roll will never die.” Last I recall, Saliva had no problem tossing aside “real” rock for the rock/rap trend. Granted, it’s been a few years. People can change. The second song, “Bait & Switch,” attempts to explain they were wrong to sell out. I think, anyway. It’s hard to pick out the sincerity when they’re carrying on about playing in front of 30,000 people and waking up between two girls. And would you believe it, this continues on the third track, “One Night Only,” where we as an audience get to hear how great it would be to do the great things Saliva has done if even just once.

Lyrics aside — because believe me, if you took the words “shit,” “f*ck,” and “yeah” away from Saliva, they would be an instrumental band — the music at least attempts to be somewhat distinctive from the five million soundalikes currently clogging rock radio. They do manage to sneak in an AC/DC influence or two in the title track, plus a straight Skynyrd type track appears with “Razor’s Edge.” Still, if Saliva is trying to push away their trendhopper image, they fail miserably on “No Hard Feelings” and “I Want You,” both completely undistinguishable from anything by Three Doors Down, Default, and countless others.

Actually, funny I should bring that up. In yet another beautiful and touchingly heartfelt song about rock stardom, “Fuck All Y’All,” Saliva actually calls out Default and Nickelback by name as record company sellout whores. The joke writes itself, as pots and kettles all over the world run to find multicolored spray paint.

The biggest hurdle this entire disc has to overcome is that it teeters on the edge of self-parody nearly one too many times. If the band would stop singing about itself and concentrate more on making music, they might not be a bad little band. If the band would fight harder to let their influences show through (and I don’t mean the hand of the record exec stuck up their back), they have the ability to be a little more creative and use their talents for good instead of evil. Survival of the Sickest seems to be battling with itself in its war against mediocrity. If that’s their target, they won’t win until they change or break up.