By Michael Henningsen
Puddle of Mudd Life on Display (Flawless/Geffen)
Puddle of Mudd are like the book-learners you went to high school with: They studied Nirvana and the grunge movement with precision only to come away with a sterile knowledge of the music but no feel for its underlying soul. They're moderately effective emulators, but there's nary an original idea in their collective head. Life on Display is a bland, repetitive exercise in music that meant something a dozen years ago. Bereft of hooks or exemplary songwriting, it falls flat on its face in its first seconds and doesn't bother to struggle to its feet. Frat dicks will love it.
Ten Mile Tide Midnight is Early (self-released)
The lyrical content of Ten Mile Tide's self-titled album dig its grave, lower the coffin and shovel it over with every stomach-turning, quasi-introspective jam-band cliché in existence. There are some pretty melodies here, but none of them are fleshed out, which is indicative of a record that's been written backwards by wannabe writers who marry themselves to their wordcraft before considering each song as a whole. The arrangements sound like mere afterthoughts and the lyrical pretentiousness is masqueraded as passion with little success. Instrumental performances are competent, but the entire album sounds scripted and overwrought.
The Elected Me First (Sub Pop)
Me First is the perfect soundtrack to calling in sick, getting slightly drunk in the late afternoon and taking a walk around the neighborhood half-hoping and half-terrified that your boss will find out. At that moment, there's a certain comfort and happy go lucky nonchalance that pervades, staving off guilt and fear until tomorrow's daybreak. Singer-songwriter Blake Sennett's songs are strange little wonders that border on disconcerting, but also capture the southern California summer mindset circa 1964. Sennett's pop songs serve as subtle reminders of what life was like before you had to go out and get a job.
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Erika Wennerstrom • singer-