Hating on Three Days Grace is easy. A band this accessible and inescapable often times deserves the hate, especially when they have gained much of their publicity from a stale and unoriginal album. But separating personal dislike from objectivity is necessary to see an album in its proper light. Perhaps one will never be able to enjoy Three Days Grace after hearing them on the radio for countless hours. Though the amount of mainstream attention and radio airplay is independent of the actual quality of a band, it's increasingly difficult to fairly judge Three Days Grace due to their sheer ubiquity. And to be fair, Three Days Grace is not a band that inspires much awe. But lost somewhere in the middle of mindless pop melodies (I Hate Everything About You) and ***ty albums (Three Days Grace's most recent effort, Life Starts Now) was a great album, their sophomore effort One-X.
Let me get it out quickly. Three Days Grace instrumentally is one of the worst bands out in the music scene. It's not worth discussing each member's talents, mainly because an all-encompassing "They show no special talent" is much more concise. Their songwriting, too, is generic at best and terrible at worst. The lyrical themes, usually the juvenile theme of anger towards some sort of ex-girlfriend, are puerile, and the lyrics themselves are likewise elementary ("I swear I never meant to let it die/ I just don't care about you anymore"). The somber atmosphere of angst the band creates in every song is likely the easiest environment for an incapable band to create; thus, the album seems to feel familiar, even to a first-time listener.
So how can an album created by artists with these traits be successful? While the overall lack of creative talent puts a ceiling on how great an album they can produce, it does not mean they cannot succeed despite their shortcomings. The songs do lack creative structures and themes that more skilled songwriters could create, and they do lack of the musicianship to create many catchy riffs, yet with the musical talent they do have (or rather, care to show), they manage to make do and succeed nevertheless.
Album highlight Animal I Have Become is the best of Three Days Grace, ever. It starts with a rocking bassline and nice, complementary power chords to accentuate it. Lyrically, the band deviates from the formula, too, opting to instead plead for someone to change him. This is a welcome change from the trite "I feel so much better/ Now that you're gone forever" as showcased in the generic Gone Forever. Album closer One X also is a nice anthem of perseverance and also one of the more interesting tracks, creating an interesting background during the verses before exploding into the typical Three Days Grace chorus. Riot is perhaps the most interesting song, as Gontier packs enough angst to make his "Let's start a riot, a riot" message credible, if not sincere. But even songs that follow the generic formula like Let It Die and Over and Over, the latter of which almost invokes some sort of heartfelt emotion other than anger, are actually listenable for those who can tolerate radio rock. Never Too Late, a formulaic power ballad, is the closest to soft on the album, and it is, despite its obscene radio airplay, an excellent song in delivery and execution.
For a mainstream band, simply 6/12 songs ranging from good to excellent would be enough to make a successful album. Luckily, outside of Pain, Time of Dying, and, to a lesser extent, Gone Forever, the other songs are solid, too. Get Out Alive attempts to change the sound of the band with mixed results, and On My Own is surprisingly successful in creating a depressed atmosphere during the verses. It's All Over even has a intro guitar solo, albeit with little technicality.
Any band that goes for generic also teeters on the line of horrible, which is likely why the band is so hated. It's not so much that this album is original among other bands' discographies, or even Three Days Grace's own discography; rather it takes the best elements of mainstream rock and churns out a great album within the confines of the genre. Don't get confused by the lazy idea that hearing something too much makes it inherently bad. The album is a consistent effort where even the weakest songs are simply annoying, instead of filler.
Recommended: Animal I Have Become, One X, Riot, Never Too Late.
At second glance, I think you were right. I think by omission, I implied a few songs were bad, when they were pretty solid. I added another paragraph, as well as editing my conclusion.
Let me know if it reads more like a 3.5 now. (And note, I'm using 3.5 on its strict definition: "Great.")
And in response to your post, I'm not sure if you heard the albums chronologically or not. I did not, instead hearing One-X and their self-titled at the same time. I think that makes a difference, because on first listen, the band is (somewhat) fresh, but because they did not change at all, their later albums become tiresome. Since I didn't hear TDG first, I didn't have the bias of it being fresh. That and I never liked any of the singles from it, except I Hate Everything About You (a little).
You also say in the review that they are untalented musicians and bad songwriters... And my issue wasn't that I didn't find all of the songs to be perfect. It was was that I found maybe four to be passably good.
^But that's the truth. You can be a bad songwriter and still make one good album. I think it's necessary to just talk about the band in general, because with a band like TDG, you can't just talk about the music or you miss the point.
Basically, the poor musicianship and bad songwriting just puts a ceiling on a band, and I think this album succeeds despite it. That was basically my point, and I intended for my review to suggest that. Again, I'll make some edits to make this clearer.
I guess I can't say why I have this on a 3,5. None of the musicians is particulary good. However, they know how to make a catchy riff and there are a couple of good songs here. This is not pretty good, but it's their best.