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Issue:

Empty is as empty does

Smile Empty Soul (Lava Records)
Smile Empty Soul

Smile Empty Soul's been getting major airplay lately with its single "Bottom of a Bottle." It's the best song on this album and if you've heard it, you'll know what to expect from the rest of their self-titled debut. SES works in the vein of countless other alterna/metal/hard-rock bands -- these guys follow the post-Nirvana aesthetic like a cookie recipe: Start off with guitars in drop D tuning, toss in some clean arpeggio intros and verses (lightly flanged for effect), a requisite stomp on the distortion pedal for a chorus and enough teen angst and gravel-throated singing to make Kurt Cobain look like Judy Collins. Sprinkle with profanity and serve. Voila: you're on 100.5 The Fox. This is not necessarily a bad thing -- if you like these kinds of cookies.

This disc does have its moments. "Bottom of a Bottle" boasts a thunderous riff, "Silhouettes" has a memorable chorus and there's some wicked octave slides in "Radio in a Hole." The token acoustic lament, "With This Knife," should please guitar buffs. However, these moments are few and far between, sandwiched between forgettable songs with lyrics that lack substance and often sound laughably juvenile.

For example, the last verse of "All My Problems:" Stop coming around, you bother me / stupid mother f$%^& pull your head out your ass and see / I don't need to take your s&*t get away from me. Wow. Feels like you're reading graffiti at JCYC. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with raging against the machine -- but it could be done with more wit and originality. On the plus side, the words are intelligible, which is more than I can say for some bands. Lead singer/guitarist Sean Danielsen has a fairly flexible vocal range, but he could learn a lesson in the art of subtlety and irony.

And irony is what this album gives, albeit unintentionally. Because while Smile Empty Soul (true to their name) shouts against the façade of happiness and hollow stereotypes that are served to today's youth, they wind up sounding very much like everyone else.

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