Despite being, by and large, a very open and welcoming community, the world of heavy metal is in fact, piled full of rules and shibboleths. Break one of them and you can face a torrent of wrath and vitriol. Over the past decade, one of the key tenets to observe has been “Thou shalt not like Staind“. Sometimes mercilessly pilloried (remember that Bowling for Soup video which took the mickey out of frontman Aaron Lewis?), sometimes fairly so (did anyone actually buy their last record?), Staind are one of those bands that have fallen into the Creed category of “Bands we love to hate”.
They are an easy target , I grant you. They write some of the most banal and clichéd lyrics on the planet; they don’t do anything particularly innovative, diverse or challenging. Yet, I have to admit, I really like their new record. Wait, come back, I do. Yes, really. It is, as you might expect, not particularly innovative, diverse or challenging but it’s as enjoyable as a massive bag of sweets. It’s commercial, direct and packed full of tunes. Remember those, kids?
You may well have already encountered some of this album online- they have been streaming opening track ‘Eyes Wide Open’ for a while now and it’s a decent indication of the rest of the album- at least in tone. However, whether it’s the Alice in Chains hue of ‘Failing’ or the Limp Bizkit-esque rap stylings and silly lyrics about masturbation of bound-to-be-a-single ‘Wannabe‘ or the massive rocking out balladry of ‘The Bottom’, this is an album that covers all the bases, (sometimes, admittedly, in a layer of cheese) but with no little panache or songwriting craft. It is an intensely hummable record, one that’s perfect in the car or on the train for the day’s commute.
There’s a sense with Staind that this is the sign of a band wanting to re-establish themselves. It’s ten songs, none of which outstay their welcome, and some which will get under your skin. “Staind” has that plenty-of-money-to-throw-at-this, rock sheen production (courtesy of Jonny K – Disturbed, Airbourne, Machine Head) that gives you every indication that their label, the very lovely Roadrunner Records, have a lot of faith in this album to reassert themselves in the public consciousness and shift them plenty of units. They very rarely get these things wrong.
Ten songs, all of them strong, a few of them proper good, too. “Staind” is the aural equivalent of a bank heist: it gets in quick, does the job and leaves faster than the proverbial getaway car. Despite my initial misgivings, I like this record; if you dump your prejudices at the door and just lie back and enjoy things, I think you will too.