Author's Note: This review originally appeared on 411Mania.com It can be found here:
Nearly seven years ago, Puddle of Mudd released their debut album, Come Clean. Thanks to a couple catchy singles, the album rose to multiplatinum status, briefly putting Puddle of Mudd on top of the modern rock scene. Unfortunately, 2003’s Life on Display failed to set the world on fire, and Puddle of Mudd faded into obscurity. Five years later, they hope to recapture some of their former glory with Famous.
Five years is an eternity in the world of pop music, but Puddle of Mudd lives in a world of eternal stasis. From the first power chord to the final fadeout, you immediately travel back to the early 2000s. The cleanly sanitized grunge riffs, the snarling Eddie Vedder-like vocals, and bland arrangements hearken back to a time when Creed was king. The only difference between Famous and Come Clean is the lack of decent singles.
Puddle of Mudd can’t be faulted for having a signature sound, but their signature sound belongs to other bands. Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam are all present and accounted for. Lead singer Wes Scantlin cribs freely from these bands, but fails to pick up on the songwriting behind the riffs. Nirvana was loud and distorted, but the distortion was backed up with clever wordplay, irony and genuine emotion. There is nothing clever about Wes Scantlin’s lyrics; everything he says is meant to be taken literally. This results in one missed songwriting opportunity after another.
The title track is the biggest misstep of all. In the hands of a more talented band, “Famous” could have been a sly nod the fact that Puddle of Mudd is losing ground. Nope. What we get is yet another song warning the world about the shallowness of the Hollywood scene. Gee, a song like that has never been written. The song would have comic value, except that Scantlin delivers each word with unnecessary seriousness.
The rest of the record alternates between shallow angst and shallow introspection. The problem is that it’s hard to tell what emotion Scantlin is trying to convey, since his vocal inflection never changes. The only time Scantlin’s voice shows any life is his occasional shouts of “YEAAAAAAH!”, which is supposed to signify anger. The charisma that the band showed on singles like “Control” and “Blurry” has disappeared and Puddle of Mudd seem to be content to sink into mediocrity.
Not all of the blame falls on the band. Corporate rock superman Brian Howes was brought in to give the band some hooks, but there are no hooks to be found. “Lips of an Angel” is a terrible song, but it least it was catchy. Howes leaves Puddle of Mudd to their own devices, and there is not a single memorable song on the album.
To be fair, nobody expects a classic rock album from a band like Puddle of Mudd, but the lack of singles is surprising. If the songwriting was better, if the riffs were punchier and the charisma was there, Puddle of Mudd could have made a decent little rock album. Instead, it’s just another banal slice of corporate rock n’ roll.