From out of the dirt

Puddle of Mudd's third album offers slickly produced, radio-friendly rock 'n' roll observations

October 18, 2007|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,Sun pop music critic

It's something that grated on his nerves. So Puddle of Mudd front man Wes Scantlin wrote a song about America's current obsession with celebrity culture. On the title track of Famous, the alt-metal band's new album released this month, he rants about those who seem to live for paparazzi cameras.

Over a chugging beat and Nirvana-like guitar riffs, Scantlin snarls: "I just wanna be famous ... cause all the Playboy bunnies take my money from me/Show up at all the Oscars/Smoke out Dennis Hopper/The money is for nothing and the chicks are for free ... "

"Yeah, man, it's straight-up poking fun at fame," the singer-guitarist says. "It doesn't seem so hard to get your 15 minutes of fame these days. All these talentless people getting busted for coke, driving down the street getting DUIs, and they become famous. Man, I was in my room for 13 years practicing guitar. Now you don't have to work at it. Just do coke, get busted, you're famous."

Scantlin and his band mates - bassist Douglas Ardito, guitarist Christian Stone and drummer Ryan Yerdon - lead the album with the scathing song. And the rest of Famous, the follow-up to 2003's gold-selling Life on Display, packages the band's profane, sometimes-witty observations of rock 'n' roll life in slickly crafted productions. Puddle of Mudd will perform cuts from the new CD tomorrow night at Rams Head Live.

"We were psyched about this record," says Scantlin, who's calling from a tour stop in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "We put a lot of hard work in it. We wanted to get under people's skins with this but have some fun playing good rock 'n' roll."

Puddle of Mudd doesn't break any new artistic ground with Famous, the band's third release on Flawless, Fred Durst's Geffen-distributed label. But the sound of the new CD is decidedly more streamlined than Life on Display and Come Clean, the band's multiplatinum breakthrough from 2001. Undoubtedly, the contributions of modern-rock tunesmith Brian Howes, who has penned hits for Daughtry, added extra coats of polish to the band's blunt approach.

"Ninety-eight percent of the time, I feel like I walked away with great songs," Scantlin says. "I thought it wasn't going to work at first. But I'm glad it did. We bounced ideas off each other, and the songs worked, man."

Precise and sprinkled with perhaps overly familiar elements of post-grunge rock, Famous is studded with tunes (surging ballads, rowdy up-tempo numbers) that sound perfectly tailored for radio. But Scantlin says ubiquitous airplay wasn't the sole aim for the new record.

"We're not shooting for everything to be on the radio," he says. "That's just the way it was written. I grew up listening to commercial radio - going to sleep with the clock radio on. So I got that in me, I guess, man."

It also could be a calculated effort to catapult Puddle of Mudd back to multiplatinum sales. The band hasn't repeated the runaway success of Come Clean, which featured the smashes "Control," "Blurry," "Drift & Die" and "She Hates Me." That album climbed into Billboard's Top 10 and sold more than 5 million copies worldwide. But with the release of Life on Display two years later, the popularity of the California-based band dipped considerably.

The CD spawned two big hits - "Away From Me" and "Heel Over Head" - but barely sold a million copies. Afterward, the band went through personnel changes: Drummer Greg Upchurch bolted for a spot in 3 Doors Down, and guitarist Paul Phillips left because of creative differences with Scantlin.

Finding replacements for his old band mates is part of the reason for the four-year gap between Life on Display and Famous. But now with new musical energy in the group, Scantlin is looking ahead.

"We don't worry about success in the past, man," Scantlin says. "I think this new record is going to do very well. Even if it doesn't, I still feel good about it. If it feels good to me, I figure it'll feel good to other people. Plus, man, it's just nice to be back out there, touring again."

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

See Puddle of Mudd at 8 tomorrow night at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. Tickets are $25. Call 410-244-1131 or go to ramsheadlive.com.

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