Staind’s brand of Alice In Chains-lite angst has been stimulating the tormented histrionics of suburban white kids for quite some time now, but no album broke as big for the Springfield band as 2001’s mega-hit Break the Cycle. Featuring the cigarette-chomping melodrama of “It’s Been Awhile,” the record drew the band’s pouting spearhead Aaron Lewis into the light.
Fast-forward ten years and Lewis enters Staind’s eponymous seventh record with something to prove. His solo EP, Town Line, was a dip into the country music end of the pond and it seems that the vocalist is going a long way to prove that he’s still got the heavyweight authority to front a sluggish, predictable rock band. Mission accomplished.
Staind is marinated in bags of nu-metal accoutrements, including the shout-sing-shout vocals and the frustrating lyricism that commonly and lifelessly tells a multiplicity of people to piss off in a number of sterile ways. Musically, the album delivers little more than mid-tempo clunkers.
That’s not to say that the band isn’t capable of some fine musicianship given the chance, mind you; it’s just that they’re never given the chance. Guitarist Mike Mushok manages some agreeable riffs that stand out from the monotonous paradigm and Johnny April is an adept bassist. Drummer Jon Wysocki, who left the band after the making of Staind, isn’t called upon to do much, but he can keep pretty decent time.
But let’s be clear: this is not a good album.
“Not Again” is the lead single. The track carries enough chugging guitar and anticipated tempo shifts to satisfy even the most ardent Nickelback and Creed fans. The tarred-and-feathered Lewis manages a little bit of emotion, but it’s hard not to caw with glee when he shouts “No taste for the crow you feed me.”
Then there’s “Wannabe,” a pitiful slice of rap-metal that solicits Snoop Dogg in an adolescent and muddled tirade against Internet haters and people who had the nerve to download Staind’s music for free. Lewis and Snoop trade verses, with plenty of masturbation references. Like many juvenile clowns in his position, the singer confuses apt disparagement with jealousy.
“The Bottom” is a track of such quality that it found its way on the soundtrack to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, while “Paper Wings” lets Lewis scream and stamp his feet about not being able to “go on.” The acoustic number “Something to Remind You,” perhaps a nod to his country work, is a well-sung and well-played groaner about how nobody cares enough and how nothing’s his fault and nobody likes him.
If egotistical, watery, tedious music that hungers for pity is your flavour, Staind will be your cup of stale coffee and no amount of frank analysis will deter you from plugging in to the misery machine. There’s no question that Lewis’ brand of narcissistic grumbling still works for some, but isn’t there a time when even the most disingenuously downcast among us should progress to create something halfway interesting?
A version of this appears at the remarkably cool Blinded By Sound.