For as much as Puddle of Mudd (POM) leader and lone original member Wes Scantlin was dying to know how the crowd at Batavia Downs was doing last Friday night, he didn’t appear interested in going the extra mile to ensure that they were doing as splendidly as he wanted them to be. His stage banter was awkward, his demeanor was tentative, and he never even mentioned the fact that the band’s major label debut, “Come Clean,” was celebrating its 20th anniversary at the end of the month.
Granted, a lot transpired in Scantlin’s personal life since I had last seen the band in 2011, but I was hoping for a little more enthusiasm given that he actually stuck around long enough to commemorate the best selling album of his career.
Does it still sound as derivative as the original Rolling Stone review claimed?
Perhaps, but, of all the Rent-a-Kurts that were conceived in the wake of “Nevermind,” Puddle of Mudd might be the one that I enjoy listening to the most. Scantlin blended the melancholia of nu metal with some catchy-as-hell detuned guitar riffs to create a sound that resonated with adolescents for whom screaming along to lines such as “I love the way you smack my ass” made them feel more adult than they really were.
The fact that so many of those same people showed up in Batavia to hear that line again after two decades meant that there was a responsibility to reward their loyalty, something that the band’s 65-minute sprint failed to do. Scantlin’s voice was strong and his fellow musicians (especially drummer Dave Moreno) brought grit to the material, but the gap between good and great was left unbridged for most of the evening.
“Control,” “Stoned,” and “Psycho” were all tightly executed, but it was the newer song, “Just Tell Me,” that offered the strongest evidence as to why Scantlin deserves the second chance he’s been given. I doubt that the majority of the audience had heard it before or even bought the 2019 album from which it came, but, if you’re a fan of those early tracks, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t have appreciated knowing that he can still craft a tune.
Encores aren’t what they used to be, so, when the band walked off around the 55-minute mark only to return seconds later, any fan with Internet access likely knew what was up next. We got “She Hates Me” and “Blurry,” of course, yet the door was slammed shut when it came time to deliver “Famous” and “Drift and Die” as expected.
In a scenario I had never experienced before, the show’s emcee arrived on stage to plant the seed that the band wasn’t actually done, causing everyone to run back to their seats to avoid missing what they paid to see. When she then said “We tried” and the realization that the POM faithful had prolonged leaving for no reason set in, you could feel animosity envelop the air.
If the band wasn’t keen on playing a longer set from the beginning, it would’ve made more sense to give the people what they wanted and played “Come Clean” in its entirety before disappearing into the night. That way, the album would’ve been truly celebrated, “Drift and Die” would’ve been present, and the 48-minute running time would’ve been more satisfying than the shortest headlining set I’ve ever seen.