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Smile Empty Soul - Smile Empty Soul Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 May 2003
Smile Empty Soul,
Lava Records, 2003
| Performance 8 | Sound 7 |

ImageYou quickly pick up on a few tidbits of highly personal information while listening to Smile Empty Soul: Singer Sean Danielsen’s dad is a loser, his mom lives in continual fear, and hypocrisy rules the religious world with an iron fist. Other than that, though, everything’s just hunky-dory in Danielsen’s life. But despite such rampant lyrical negativity, it’s hard not to feel empathy for Danielsen’s sorry soul. Over an overwhelmingly minor chord-filled album of hard rock, Danielsen’s raspy voice howls at the world in much the same convincing way Kurt Cobain used to do back with Nirvana. And while Danielsen may still be a few steps less poetic than Cobain, he’s nevertheless an effective communicator and well worth checking out.

Just when you’re about to write Smile Empty Soul off as yet one more new band of alternative rock whiners, they throw the plot curve of “The Other Side” at you. The song begins predictably as a rant about Danielsen’s troubled family, with lines like, “Can’t this family have one day to get away from all the pain?” All the while, the only bright spot in Danielsen’s world is the light that he sees shining from his next-door-neighbor’s window. But Danielsen’s happy-family-envy is soon severely shattered. Toward the end of the song, he tells of how the “neighbor boy runs up me, his eyes all black and blue” after being brutally beaten by his father. Danielsen then concludes that “maybe it’s not so good on the other side.” Danielsen’s ability to see that he is not the only one suffering in this world is refreshing indeed.

Although one song title, “Therapy,” sums up this album’s introverted direction best, Danielsen and band also find room to look at the bigger picture as well. An example of this wider scope vision can be heard on “This Is War,” which is a song that was obviously inspired by the United States’ recent military endeavors in the Middle East. The track is underpinned by an unobtrusive string arrangement, and finds the vocalist wondering aloud why it’s okay to just blow somebody’s head off during wartime, yet flat-out murder anytime else. Sure, this is an age-old moral question, yet it’s eloquently expressed here.

Smile Empty Soul isn’t saying or playing too much here that we haven’t already heard before. But while far too many bands come off looking conspicuously trendy with all their outward artistic suffering these days, Danielsen and company are utterly believable.

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