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Same Old Puddle 

by ALAN SCULLEY & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & P & lt;/span & uddle of Mudd's style of straight-ahead guitar rock has little to do musically with hip-hop. But that didn't stop the band from seeing a common practice in hip-hop that it could apply to the group's new CD, Famous.





Where most rock bands work with a single producer in making a CD, Puddle of Mudd borrowed a page from hip-hop and tried to match producers to the types of individual songs on Famous.





That wasn't the original plan. In fact, Puddle of Mudd appeared poised to surprise its fans by teaming up with two of the biggest names in punk rock as its producers - Bill Stevenson (drummer for Black Flag and the Descendents, who has produced Rise Against, MxPx, among others) and Jason Livermore (whose credits include NOFX and the Lemonheads).





"We did go to Colorado and worked with Jason and Bill on a full record's worth of material," Puddle of Mudd singer/guitarist Wes Scantlin says by phone. "Then when we listened and sat back with it, we decided to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb and make sure it was the record we truly wanted to put out. And we realized, 'Hey, maybe we should hit up some more avenues rather than this punk direction.'"


But even with a wide variety of producers influencing its sound, Famous sounds very much like the work of Puddle of Mudd. The songs rock hard, but they don't transform Puddle of Mudd into a punk band.





All four band members -- Scantlin, bassist Doug Ardito, guitarist Christian Stone and drummer Ryan Yerdon -- are clearly very happy with Famous, but they weren't making any predictions that the CD will become a huge hit. "We kind of just do what we do and hope for the best," Scantlin says. "We feel good about it or else it wouldn't be released."





If the album does catch on big, it would mark a return to commercial form for Puddle of Mudd, whose 2001 debut, Come Clean, sold more than five million copies. But their second CD, 2003's Life on Display, didn't fare as well, with sales topping out at about 500,000 copies.


The second album was done under a tight deadline in hopes of sustaining the momentum of the first CD, and the band actually wrote some of the material in the studio. For Famous, there were no such time pressures.





"It's a matter of: You have your whole life to write your first album," Ardito says. "Then you've got to, like, rush in after a week off and make your second album. And this time, we did have the time allotted to just go through life and have things happen and have something to honestly talk about rather than forcing it."





The extra time also gave the band a chance to get more familiar with its two new members -- Yerdon and Stone. Yerdon replaced Greg Upchurch, who left Puddle of Mudd to join the hugely popular band 3 Doors Down. Stone took over for Paul Phillips, who unsuccessfully lobbied to take Puddle of Mudd's music in a heavier direction. He has since started his own band, Operator.





While Yerdon and Stone bring different personalities and abilities to the band (Stone, an accomplished singer, has strengthened the group's vocal harmonies), they have been careful to follow the musical blueprint of Puddle of Mudd's first two albums.





"We're just trying to keep it like it was before we got here, just because we both think the parts are really well written for the songs," Yerdon said. "It just happens that we are the kind of the players who sound like what they had before. It's a good fit."





The new lineup has already been busy touring, with a run of headlining dates this winter being the second extended run of shows behind the current CD.





Scantlin said the group will still feature crowd-pleasing hits from the first two albums (such as "Blurry," "She Hates Me," "Bring Me Down" and "Away From Me"), but will add new material as the tour continues.





"We've got, like, so many songs that are getting ready to start popping, that it's difficult to prepare for it," Scantlin said. "But we're going to rehearse and do everything we can to get [the Famous CD] across to the crowd and have a good time. They're buying the records and coming to the shows, so we've got to give them mad respect."





Puddle of Mudd with Neurosonic and Tyler Read at Big Easy on Friday, Feb. 1, at 8 pm. $20. Visit ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.
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