Rarities by Smile Empty Soul-Record Review by Vince A.
Rarities, by Smile Empty Soul is a compilation of unreleased material, along with two songs from soundtracks, which were not included in any of their studio releases. Many songs were previously only available via bootlegs, so fans can finally get them via a packaged format. Rarities is available in 2 versions, an 8 song digital download, or a 13 song CD.
The 13 song CD includes all 8 songs in the digital download plus Who I Am (from the Spider Man 2 soundtrack), Finding Myself (from The Punisher soundtrack), and 3 covers… Precious Things (Tori Amos), Aneurysm (Nirvana), and Possession (Sarah McLachlan).
This compilation displays how versatile Smile Empty Soul really is. The production quality isn’t as polished as their studio LPs, as one would suspect, but this extra grit gives it character reminiscent of early 90’s punk records that paved the way for the Seattle grunge movement. I immediately thought of Nirvana’s Bleach for comparison, especially with their spot-on cover of Aneurysm. Few singers can replicate the emotion and strain of Kurt Cobain’s vocals, but lead singer Sean Danielsen does this effortlessly. He has a Jekyll and Hyde vocal style where he transitions from clean – to gritty – to throaty screams at will.
The CD opens with One At a Time, a melodic rocker that showcases the full talent of the band. Clean bass and guitar lines with syncopated drums. Sean Danielsen’s vocals during the verses have a light airy feeling, but the choruses are fully distorted and Sean approaches near screams to emphasize key words. It’s a stellar track to set you in the mood for the rest of the CD. Something New and Wasted Town are demos that have mellower intros that kick into heavier choruses. Goodbye and What’s Going Through My Head are straight driving tracks reminiscent of Blink-182 or Social Distortion. Each of these rockers have infectious hooks that deserve a place within modern rock radio. Who I Am is one of my favorite Smile Empty Soul songs, so to finally have this packaged with similar material from the band is very rewarding.
Rarities also includes acoustic tracks Alone, This is War, Finding Myself and a live version of For You. Alone really showcases Sean’s clean vocals with just him and an acoustic guitar. This is War includes the full band and could have easily appeared on Nirvana’s Unplugged performance.
The 13 song CD ends with their cover of Sarah McLachlan’s Possession. This song translates to their power punk style very well, with excellent use of Sean’s vocal transitions and a killer guitar solo midway through the track.
Rarities is a must own for Smile Empty Soul fans, and strong enough to earn them some new fans. It’s a great listen from start to finish with no need to skip tracks. Despite being previously unreleased, there is no throw away material here. Very highly recommended for any fan of modern punk or harder rocking music with a commercial appeal.