Review Summary: The album does not possess any originality, but what it has can hit the spot. Sometimes.
The Canadian rockers from Theory of a Deadman never were favorites among the enlightened critics and more sophisticated music lovers. “Nickelback
clone”, “spawn of Chad Kruger’s producing attempts”, “bland and tasteless”, “one of the worst bands of all time” (these are not literal quotes but close to what you can find on the net) are only some of the epithets expressed. One can easily imagine that the amount of swill poured on the band would fill up large volume. Now the question is whether all of this is fair and valid. Let’s try and assess the objectivity of these claims through their third (and most successful commercially) album Scars & Souvenirs
released in 2008.
Frankly speaking some of the comments happen to be valid, for instance when they’re called a Nickelback
clone. While listening to their two previous LPs (as well as this one) the origin for such comparison is clear. Just like the Canadian colleagues Theory of a Deadman play standard, even somewhat cookie-cutter, 21st century hard rock with songs blatantly aimed at radio. The whole Scars & Souvenirs
is stuffed with conventional but solidly crafted tracks – be that more aggressive (like So Happy
, Got It Made
) or ballad-y ones (Not Meant to Be
, All or Nothing
, Wait for Me
), which can easily end up on the albums of many of their contemporaries without any feeling of discord. The songs have a minimum amount of big but simple hooks, enough to get stuck in the head of an unsuspecting listener at the same time avoiding wearying him or her. All of it is wrapped in an envelope of uncomplicated riffs and rhythms that fully correspond with the conservative approach of the bands who broke in on the radio in the beginning of the millennium. Theory of a Deadman can be easily included among them, confirming the abovementioned claim of blandness.
'Then how could this album sell over a million of copies?', can rightfully ask the reader. It would seem that the answer is quite clear and was already mentioned in the previous paragraph. Despite their conventional nature, the songs are executed with appropriate understanding of the pop music rules, devoid of unnecessary length and lasting only the prerequisite 3-4 minutes. There is yet another aspect – the lyrics. They are simple, easy-to-understand and provoke the necessary associations. To be honest, who did not have similar thoughts or impulses in a situation close to something described in Little Smirk
? Who can not understand the simple sentimentalities of Heaven (Little by Little)
and End of the Summer
? Bad Girlfriend
does not seem so preposterous, given that there are girls that want to be “bad” and guys who chase after this type. It might sound ridiculous but Theory of a Deadman and the rest all follow the clearly-defined rules formed in the 1960s by The Beatles
, The Who
, The Kinks
and others. The only difference between the masters and the students is complete lack of any innovations. So it is probably wrong to call the poor Canadians one of the worst bands of all time. They are just middle-of-the-road. Which might be even worse, actually.
Summing up it is safe to say that albums like Scars & Souvenirs
have a right to exist. Obviously, they are primarily aimed at unsophisticated listeners or those that only start on their path to real music. And indeed it does not possess any originality or freshness, but what it has can hit the spot. Such pop (hard) rock does not really commit to anything.
P.S. Nevertheless Theory of a Deadman have one trait that allows them to stand out a little bit. These guys, unlike their contemporaries, know how to laugh, even at themselves. Among the swarm of songs full of angst and despair some humor and tongue in cheek really help to dilute such gloomy sauce.