Rock has always had its leaders and its followers. The leaders took chances and weren't afraid to push rock in some type of new direction; the followers were derivative and embraced what had already been tried and tested. The fact that the followers are derivative doesn't automatically mean that they are without merit; derivative bands have their place as long as they're good at what they do. And the derivative approach yields decent results on More Anxiety -- not exceptional results, but decent results. This CD/DVD release of March 2010 is actually a reissue of Smile Empty Soul's 2005 release Anxiety, with some audio bonus tracks (including demos) added along with bonus DVD material. Other Smile Empty Soul albums have made no secret of who the band's influences are, and More Anxiety is no exception. Angst-ridden post-grunge offerings such as "California's Lonely," "Fight of a Suburban Couple," and "Holes" clearly owe a huge artistic debt to the Seattle alternative bands of the late '80s and early '90s; More Anxiety's musical recipe is basically Nirvana meets Pearl Jam meets Alice in Chains, with some awareness of Staind. Of course, Staind aren't from Seattle -- they're an East Coast band -- but the Seattle grunge explosion certainly influenced Staind along with so many other alternative rock combos that emerged in the mid-'90s. And even though Smile Empty Soul are from California, they wouldn't sound the way they do were it not for Seattle's alt-rock contributions. More Anxiety doesn't offer a lot of surprises, but even so, it's a worthwhile, albeit predictable, listen if one is a die-hard post-grunge enthusiast. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi

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