Smile Politely

Puddle of Mudd vs. Plain White T’s

How is it that two bands that sound so very different can completely suck in equal amounts? One band is from the shiny happy suburbs of Chicago, the other is from decidedly less shiny Kansas City. One band’s name conjures images of filth while the other’s name makes one think of a Tide commercial. One band uses heavy distortion to make their power-chord driven songs sound interesting, and the other uses heavily auto-tuned vocal harmonies to make their power chord-driven songs sound interesting. Either way, I’m very glad I live nowhere near the Canopy Club the next couple days.

In case you didn’t know, this weekend the venue will be hosting two of the biggest buzzkills to an otherwise spectacular semester of live music in Champaign-Urbana. First, Plain White T’s, famous for their Grammy-nominated stalker ballad “Hey There, Delilah” will be performing tonight. On Saturday, the band so good they needed to spell their name with two backwards D’s, Puddle of Mudd, will do their pop-metal thing on the Canopy stage. Dropkick Murphy’s, playing a sold-out show on Friday, must feel like an expertly prepared steak stuck between two slices of Wonder bread.

Sure they’re both tremendously terrible, but who would win in a fight?

That’s not really up for debate. I’m pretty sure Puddle of Mudd lead singer Wes Scantlin would snap Tom Higgenson in half. Higgenson has the same body type as Florence Henderson. But it’s worth looking deeper into the careers of these two very different bands to better understand how they became what they are today — walking punchlines.

Puddle of Mudd may have formed in 1993 in a dirty, flooded basement, but the band’s career didn’t develop until Wes Scantlin went out on a limb in 2000. Scantlin snuck backstage at a Limp Bizkit concert armed with a fake VIP badge. There are two different stories about what happened afterwards. Either Scantlin somehow convinced a security guard to give Fred Durst a demo, or Scantlin fought through security to hand-deliver it to the Durstman. Either way, Durst liked Scantlin’s moxie enough to sign the band to his ironically named label, Flawless Records.

That’s pretty ballsy, and even though Scantlin’s voice sounds like a mix of Kurt Cobain and a drowning cat, you’ve got to give him credit. Durst later helped Scantlin assemble a new band and get Puddle of Mudd the opening spot on a Godsmack tour. Scantlin, proving that there’s no reason not to fucking hate him, la la la la, went off on this tangent about the man who made his career:

He doesn’t write our songs, he doesn’t produce our songs, he doesn’t do anything for us. He doesn’t do our videos anymore. He doesn’t do anything for this band. … I don’t know what he’s doing, I don’t know what the guy’s like. All I know is that he’s like Mr. Hollywood guy, Mr. Celebrity. Like, ‘I don’t hang out with anybody except Hollywood celebrities.’ Every single fucking interview I’ve ever fucking done, I get asked about that fucking guy. I don’t have anything against him, but I haven’t talked to the guy in a fucking year and a half. And for me to do interviews all the time and be asked about this certain individual. … People think he writes music with me or something. He does not do that. I just don’t get it. We have nothing in common. He doesn’t even call us, he has his assistant call us to congratulate us on our record. Yeah, that’s how pathetic he is.”

Do you really have nothing against the guy, Wes? Even if Scantlin’s music wasn’t miserable and even if his band’s name didn’t make me think of a pile of liquid girls’ jeans, this guy would suck.

How does that compare to the story of Plain White T’s? Everyone knows how the band got famous; the dude wrote a song about a steeplechase athlete who had a boyfriend. It was cheesy and sentimental and got a disgusting amount of airplay. The song, though containing the same amount of quality as Hoobastank’s “The Reason,” is harmless enough. But what does the band do after that? They sell their souls to the devil — Walt Disney.

Plain White T’s signed on to Hollywood Records. The label is also home to artists such as Miley Cyrus, Corbin Bleu, The Cheetah Girls and the 102 Dalmatians Original Soundtrack. This tie with Disney no doubt helped with album sales, airplay and, of course, television appearances. The band regularly performs on ABC Family’s Greek, the television program that accurately captures college life if campus was inhabited by backstabbing junior high students.

So who’s better and who’s worse? That’s a debate for the ages. More than anything, I would love to see a side-by-side comparison photo of the people standing in the front row each night.

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