Since the release of Come Clean in 2001, Wes Scantlin has had something of a rough time. The Puddle Of Mudd frontman has seen himself subject to numerous arrests and meltdowns over the course of the last two decades, to the point where that can be seen as just as emblematic of this band as the bad post-grunge with the dire, dour production befitting of their name. But now that Scantlin has been clean and in a more positive environment for a while now, Welcome To Galvania is being framed as his big redemptive moment, with a title suggesting something far more driven and determined to move forward in life. And yet, these sorts of arcs and grand statements of intent have been made numerous times before in radio-rock, rarely amounting to much else than another helping of the band’s usual mediocrity with maybe a slightly more contemporary update, and given that Puddle Of Mudd have never been elevated above that particular waterline, there’s really nothing to suggest that Welcome To Galvania will be that album to change that stagnant cycle.
Then again, it’s not like these sorts of bands ever take the opportunity to meaningfully evolve, even when it’s so blatantly laid out in front of them, leaving Welcome To Galvania as another rudimentary radio-rock album cursed with the typical Puddle Of Mudd-isms that set it down just a crucial few rungs lower. And yet, while this is most certainly not an enjoyable listen, it’s hardly offensively bad, and as far as bands emulating themselves to the point where car crash conditions are effectively out of the picture, it’s hardly going to rub existing fans the wrong way. But that says just as much about the judgement and cognitive capabilities of open Puddle Of Mudd fans as it does about the quality of this album, and in both cases, they’re not exactly the highest.
They’re gripes that generally circle back to Puddle Of Mudd themselves, who fall into the camp of embracing their own creative bankruptcy that’s pretty much the norm for other acts of their ilk. The fact that the album ends with a version of lead single Uh Oh designed to be in the style of Come Clean away from the sharper, poppier main version says a lot about how reticent the band are to really stray from their deadlocked formula, and that Welcome To Galvania goes against any indications of newness in its title to wholly facilitate that process makes for a truly boring album. Stumbling upon a riff or groove that isn’t too bad isn’t completely out of the question on tracks like Time Of Our Lives and Sunshine (the latter arguably doing the most thanks to a pretty credible Stone Temple Pilots imitation), but generally, this is mid-2000s post-grunge with absolutely nothing to break away from being the epitome of outdatedness. The guitar tone generally remains unwieldily sludgy and giving off the constant impression of wanting to die on a track like Just Tell Me, only letting up for obvious radio cuts like Uh Oh and the token ballad My Kind Of Crazy which… exists and does very little else. What’s most surprising is how bad the production and modulation can be for a big-budget rock album like this, especially on the vocals; there was no way there was ever going to be a sharpness to the instrumentation as it’s left to congeal in a swampy mess, but on a track like You Don’t Know, there’s no consistency in when Scantlin is placed in the mix with him sounding borderline inaudible at times. He’s not exactly the greatest vocalist to start with, what with the congested delivery that makes the extended syllables on Go To Hell feel all the more excruciating and a sloppy diction on Kiss It All Goodbye that’s little more than a worthless stylistic choice, but the stark lack of care in how this is all laid out only makes his contributions feel even more amateurish.
Then there’s the writing where it’s business as usual, but it’s so generic and formulaic that it’s difficult to pay attention or really even care one way or another. It’s no surprise that Uh Oh was chosen as the lead single given how unashamedly it apes the Theory Of A Deadman ethos of white-trash scumbag in a failed relationship that’s tended to work for them in the past, but the rest doesn’t even have the good graces to present a touchstone as clear as that, rather a nebulous gumbo of post-grunge dimness that already been rinsed of its effectiveness in every possible permutation. Going into much more detail would really only be a waste of time when this is all such boilerplate stuff, and when it’s doled out with so little conviction or impetus on the band’s end to shake it up or give it their own spin, it makes it seem like they don’t even care.
And it goes without saying, but for an album with such supposedly high stakes as this one has, that’s not a good look at all. It just makes Puddle Of Mudd look like another one of these bands on their next venture to siphon whatever they can from a crowd that should have reasonably moved on at this point, and considering there’s been next to no growth or evolution worth speaking of, the whole endeavour couldn’t feel more perfunctory. Yes, it’s wonderful that Scantlin has reached a better place with a more sober lifestyle, but there’s no convincing evidence that that’s fed into Welcome To Galvania at all, something that’s rather important when it’s supposed to be the underlying framework of the entire album. But at the end of the day, no one’s going to care about this except the fans who’ll lap it up anyway, and more power to them, but all that Welcome To Galvania has done is added Puddle Of Mudd to the list of bands who had the potential to make something more of themselves, only to royally squander it.
For fans of: Theory Of A Deadman, Saliva, Nickelback
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Welcome To Galvania’ by Puddle Of Mudd is released on 13th September on Pavement Entertainment.