Steve Adamyk Band
Ottawa’s Steve Adamyk Band has been a consistent, reliable purveyor of high-octane old-school power pop for the past decade. Paradise doesn’t buck that trend in a huge way: if you’ve enjoyed their past records, there’s little here to suggest that you won’t enjoy this and, similarly, if you’ve found their direct, no-frills approach to be less than thrilling, it certainly isn’t the album to change your mind. If anything, Steve Adamyk Band seem to be at the point Ramones were before them: the point of diminishing returns. Paradise is a fun, catchy and tight listen, but on an LP number six that does little to differentiate itself from albums one through five, these qualities have less of a positive impact.
If there’s an immediately apparent difference between this album and the ones that came before, Steve Adamyk Band do seem to attempt an ever-so-slight shift towards the melodic sensibilities of more modern mainstream pop punk. A rhythm section that was once aggressively punchy and driving often feels content to jovially yet predictably bounce about, and the sound is notably cleaned up, for better or worse. Opener “The Letter” does little to stun more than any other serviceable pop punk song found on a soundtrack to a teen movie. It’s certainly fine, but not any more. “In Death” and title track “Paradise” are far better off recalling the forceful assertiveness of past material, with the former a blistering, jerky hurricane. The two-part “Waiting to Die” may be the most interesting case on Paradise, with part one containing its best singalong chorus “We’re all just waiting to die / We’re all just waiting to die / We’re all just waiting to die / Not me, not me!” and standing as one of the slower, simpler and more melodic entries found on the album, while part two shifts back to the trademark dynamism the band has showcased over the years. This stretch of songs is undoubtedly the strongest here, after which Paradise largely settles back into ‘fine’ territory. The melodies and hooks are far from bad, but they are also far from original. It’s easy to feel like you’ve heard much of this material before, as the band recycles song structures, a small handful of chords and canned backing vocals (“hey now”s in “When I Was Gone”, “yeah yeah yeah”s in “No Help” and “hey hey, you you”s in “Telephone”).
There’s no part of Paradise that could be called incompetent, but during the frequently blurry second half, you may wish Steve Adamyk Band had decided to get a little stupid and ambitious and the moniker ‘seasoned’ wasn’t ironic on another level. The best thing that can be said about this album is that it’s a solid, enjoyable record that does little to stand out among its peers, which also just so happens to be the worst thing that can said about it.
Favorite track(s): “Waiting to Die”
This review was originally written for Spectrum Culture and later adapted for Counterzine.