Review Summary: An average mainstream rock band produces an average mainstream rock album that manages to lift itself just that little bit higher than its colleagues with a good final half.
Theory Of A Deadman are:
Tyler Connelly – Vocals, Guitar
Dave Brenner - Rhythm Guitar
Dean Back - Bass
Brent Fitz - Drums
Theory of a Deadman copped some major flack back when their debut album was released in 2002. Their songwriting was ludicrously terrible, and the similarities between them and Nickelback were too glaringly obvious for anyone to take them seriously. So when the follow up was released it was not without a decent amount of hesitation that critics picked it up. Most, I expect, were waiting for it to be the same pile of dribble that the debut was. How wrong they were.
Well, not quite.
The songwriting has matured immensely, as has the musicianship and the vocals. The quartet have pulled away from being Chad Kroeger’s illegitimate children and at the same time have created an album with a few decent hooks, a few good riffs, and a few songs that stand above the rest. Noticing the trend? 3 or 4 tracks amongst a bunch of mediocre trash does not a great album make.
The issue here is the repetitiveness. I am so tempted to list all the songs that are about relationships, more specifically breakups, but I’m not going to because its most of the album. No joke, 10 out of the 13 tracks are about Connelly breaking up with someone.
The musicianship also falls into that trap, with most of the album sounding almost exactly the same. A lot of the time the guitar work dissolves into an almost solid wall of sound during the choruses. Try to dissect it and you get something that resembles good music, but not enough for it to be worth it.
The album attempts to rock hard but ultimately fails.
Right about now I bet you’re wondering why I gave this a 3, and not, say, a 2. Surely with this amount of crap this is one of those annoying mainstream albums that the fans adore and real musicians play Frisbee with. I’ll admit it’s close to that, but there are a few redeeming factors that are very hard to ignore.
The most outstanding of these is the catchiness of the songs. Just about every song has a hook the size of a harpoon. Its just a shame that on several occasions the verses let it down big-time. Luckily, sometimes Tyler decides to clean up his vocals and shows he can sing far better then some of his contemporaries. In songs like “Santa Monica” you can’t help but join in and feel the man behind the words. This isn’t to say that the album is only good during the more mellow tracks, far from it. “Better Off” has the harder rock edge of “Hating Hollywood” but with a better build up and finish, and an excellent hook. They also repeat this success quite well on the some of the other tracks like “Save the Best for Last”.
And it’s almost impossible to forget this line from “Me & My Girl”
“Now things are all f****d up
Instead of kissing her lips
I want to staple them shut”
Whether you think its a pile of garbage or not is irrelevant, it was stuck in my head for days, and that's what quite a lot of these bands aim for.
Also, though the guitar does dissolve into a solid wall of sound, this allows the vocals to soar. Admittedly I would have liked both to have been good, but I don't think TOAD are capable of that, as this album demonstrates, so 1 out of 2 isn't that bad.
When Connelly and Brenner actually work together its nothing incredible, some catchy riffs, acoustic backing and acoustic lead occasionally (Hello Lonely, Santa Monica, In The Middle) that gives the song an overall fuller sound, but nothing that will make your jaw drop. Then again, nobody really expected that from an average mainstream rock band, and if you did than you are in for some major disappointments when the real world comes knocking on your door.
The bass, funnily enough, stands out more than I was expecting. On quite a few tracks it pokes its head up and gleams a little brighter than the average American rock band would have you believe it was possible for it to; most notably on “No Way Out” and “No Surprise”. It’s a nice change from the quiet and shy bass that bands like Nickelback tend to have. What a shame the rest of the music in those tracks is pretty much useless, making the track, as a whole, skippable.
And finally the drumming: I could say the same thing here that I said about the guitar. Occasionally it produces it something interesting, a good catchy beat (Save The Best For Last) but most of the time its nothing special, it sits in the background doing nothing more than keeping the beat.
Its good for what it is, but because of what it is this was never going to get above a 3.5 for me, and the earlier tracks and a few filler songs let it down.
Save the Best for Last
(I could keep listing here, but I’d only do it because the chorus is catchy as hell and it’s stuck in my head, the bastard)