Review Summary: An essential release for those seeking a reliable cure for insomnia.
There are only two possible reasons why Asia are still releasing records; they genuinely get a kick out of churning out album after album of inoffensive arena rock or they need the cash. Whatever their motivations are there is no doubt that after over 30 years' worth of this stuff they are still showing no signs of throwing in the towel, even though it seems that Steve Howe finally had enough and elected to jump ship for this 14th album. This sort of syrupy commercial rock is, of course, about as fashionable as Hitler moustaches but there is always a certain section of the record buying public that seem to lap it up as long as it's catchy, easy on the ear and has a few choruses to hum along to in the shower. You could certainly say that about their self-titled 1982 debut which attained massive commercial success off the back of a few slices of superlative AOR. There was also a certain guilty novelty about spinning an album of unashamedly sing-along tunes by four of the stalwarts of the 70's progressive rock movement.
Thirty years on the novelty has long since died and so has, it seems, the group's ability to pen anything even remotely memorable. As one would expect from musicians with the pedigree of Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes and John Wetton the delivery is exemplary. Wetton's vocals never disappoint, whatever the setting, and new boy Sam Coulson gives a creditable performance as Howe's replacement. But there's no spark, no inspiration, no passion and certainly no attempt to break out of their tired old formula of mid-tempo keyboard laden commercial rock. Even for those that abhor this style of music a decent example of the genre force-fed to them via a sibling or partner should have the capability to sear its sugary melodies onto their subconscious and force them unwillingly to start humming one of its tunes at inopportune moments, much to their chagrin. This one, however, is mercifully free of any strong hooks or catchy choruses that may pollute your life in such a way so it can be safely experienced without fear of any such contamination.