Scars and Souvenirs, the third album from Theory of a Deadman, sounds like a rehash of the band's first two albums -- which is to say that it sounds like every Nickelback album ever made. They may have a reason, given that Chad Kroeger signed them to his 604 Records label in 2001, but reasons are neither excuses nor a free pass for mimicry. Throughout Scars and Souvenirs, Theory of a Deadman appropriate the melodies, vocals, choruses, and riffs of their mentors, resulting in a sound so derivative that the album's liner notes are the best (or perhaps only) way to confirm that this is not, in fact, Kroeger and company. Many examples abound, but the best is "Not Meant to Be," a song whose melody and chorus bear more than a passing resemblance to All the Right Reasons' "Rockstar." Like their previous effort, Gasoline, Theory of a Deadman turned to producer Howard Benson on Scars and Souvenirs, which could explain why the album sticks to the same sounds and formulas instead of branching out in a new direction. The problem is that it's not a particularly winning formula, especially when it's coupled with lyrics that place lead singer Tyler Connolly in the role of a spoiled, histrionic rock star who tries to connect with his audience through scenarios that range from the legitimate to the frankly bizarre. In "Hate My Life," a whiny entitlement diatribe that sounds like an emo tune crafted for the midlife crisis crowd, Connolly complains about the homeless and bad drivers before ragging on his wife, the dating pool, and how he hates "that I can't tell when a girl's underage." It's a creepy introduction into disturbingly misogynistic undercurrents that continue in the next song, "Little Smirk," which chronicles how a man takes revenge on a cheating partner through humiliation, followed by systematically stealing and/or destroying everything they have. (Connolly's protagonist also kidnaps the partner's child for good measure.) The bad taste from this one song lingers for the rest of the album, totally negating any inherent tenderness to be found in the mediocre ballad "Wait for Me." Not that it needed any help -- while the lyrics are sweet enough, they certainly don't break any ground in the romance department, and the music retreads the same chords, melody, and chorus structures as the rest of Scars and Souvenirs. It's also delivered with a default mix of anger and angst, the same emotional tone that informs all the songs on the album. While no artist is required to make monumental leaps in artistry with each of their releases, Theory of a Deadman seem to be stuck in first gear here. It makes Scars and Souvenirs nonessential, given that nothing has changed.
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AllMusic Review by Katherine Fulton