Monday, July 14, 2014

Dial Tone!

So prolific and consistently good that he's sometimes taken for granted, Steve Adamyk seems to be a victim of his own excellence. Maybe if he only managed one album every five years, the arrival of a new one would be cause for mass celebration and perhaps even a national holiday in Canada. But Dial Tone, out now on Dirtnap Records, is the fourth Steve Adamyk Band album in five years. Perhaps it's just my perception, but it seems like these last couple of albums have not been fully appreciated. The things Adamyk sometimes gets criticized for (e.g. too many songs sound the same, he's "only good at one thing") are exactly the things I like about him! If you feel the same way, you'll be happy to discover that Dial Tone is very much in the same vein as all previous albums from the Steve Adamyk Band. But if you think that Steve Adamyk just keeps making the same record over and over, you're not paying very close attention.

Granted, Steve Adamyk's "thing" is that he writes catchy power pop punk songs and plays them really fast. But I like that each album takes a little bit of a different angle. 2011's Forever Won't Wait went in more of a pop direction, while last year's Third was racing punk rock adrenaline. And now with Dial Tone, Steve and the gang offer a record that should go over great with today's garage crowd. The album was recorded by Matthew Melton (Warm Soda/Bare Wires), who definitely put his own stamp on it. If Warm Soda often comes off a little too laid back for my tastes and the Steve Adamyk Band could sometimes afford to give its hooks a little more room to breathe, then it goes to figure that this collaboration would strike the perfect balance. And it does! Dial Tone is a classic Steve Adamyk Band album with the muffled fidelity of a Warm Soda record. There are a few tracks (like "Suicide" and "Mirror Ball") that actually start off sounding like they might be Warm Soda songs - but then the vocals come in and you know exactly which band you're listening to! The light speed tempos maintained throughout Third have been dialed back just a little - resulting in an album that's not quite as dizzying but still snappy and energetic. Adamyk is a master at crafting punchy, hook-laden pop tunes - and front to back this is as good of a collection of songs as he's ever delivered. "Careless", "Last In Town", and "Empty Cause" are the kinds of songs Steve Adamyk has been turning out for years - and will hopefully continue to turn out for years to come. And perhaps because there aren't as many super fast songs on this record, breakneck numbers like "Waiting For the Top" and "Anne" really crackle.

Even with its top shelf material and Melton's nifty production touches (a handclap here, a sprinkle of synth there), Dial Tone would not be the record it is without such a tremendous performance by the band as a whole. The revamped four piece lineup that energized the band's sound on Third has found another gear on Dial Tone - tearing into these tunes with confidence and purpose. On the heels of great albums from Sonic Avenues and Mother's Children, Dial Tone reaffirms what a huge difference a killer rhythm section can make with this kind of music. This album essentially combines the best aspects of the previous two with additional hints of things to come (a couple songs nearly hit the three-minute mark!). I think it's by far the band's best album to date. There may be a time when Adamyk abandons the Buzzcocks/Ramones/Dickies songwriting template and stuns his fans with something completely different. But I'm in no hurry for that to happen. If you play this kind of music yourself, you know how hard it can be to write really simple songs. Adamyk seems to do it effortlessly - and his gift should be celebrated.


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