February 2, 2004
Roxy Theatre - Atlanta, GA

Smile Empty Soul
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  Some things never change. Teenage angst will continue to fuel the corporate monster known as “modern rock” as long as kids are getting grounded for “talking back” to their parents. It’s okay. That’s the way it should be. Case in point: Smile Empty Soul. The California trio’s leaden material shows absolutely no sense of fun or humor. Whether it’s a song about escaping daily drudgery and problems through the use of drugs (“Bottom Of A Bottle”) or a well meaning, but na´ve attempt at a protest song (“This Is War”), with Smile Empty Soul, it’s all dark and bleak as far as the eye can see.  Fortunately for this band, middle class white kids need some darkness (even if it is totally manufactured) to feel alive. Swigging directly from a bottle between songs, singer/guitarist Sean Danielsen riled up the mosh pit with his version of Silverchair’s version of Nirvana. It’s not that the band was bad…far from it. They were quite well versed at their instruments and in just the right velocity to head-bang. They even appeared sincere. It’s just that they’ve got nothing unique to say or even a new spin on an old topic. Still, they managed to whip up a fervor during “Nowhere Kids” and suitably warmed up the sold out crowd for Puddle Of Mudd.
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Puddle Of Mudd
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  Some things do change…thank God! A couple of years ago, when Puddle Of Mudd first came out, they were one of my “pet peeve bands.” You know the kind. It’s not just that you don’t like their music but they actually make you angry. I went to see them and the highest compliment I could muster was that they were a “redneck Nirvana.” Two years on, I was surprised to see that they’ve lightened up significantly. Gone is the brooding, moody, pissed off front man Wes Scantlin and in his place is the smiling, playful, rock star front man Wes Scantlin. It makes all the difference. Don’t get me wrong. I still don’t want to listen to a Puddle Of Mudd record, but I’ve got to say that they’ve become adept at putting on a satisfying rock show. In addition to the usual guitar picks, the Mudd boys even delivered fresh fruit to the crowd (although I can’t imagine throwing a pineapple into a mosh pit is good for liability issues). Scantlin was even able to poke fun at himself by introducing the melodramatic hit “Blurry” as “Chicken Fried Steak” and singing the words to Grease’s “Summer Nights” over “She Hates Me.” These may sound like small steps but they’re actually giant leaps for modern-rock-kind. It is, after all, only rock ‘n’ roll. And Puddle Of Mudd appears to understand that now. Rock on, boys.

(Chris McKay / concertshots.com)

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