Sound: The year 2006 marks Staind's tenth year of major label studio releases, and the band's latest release commemorates the event. The majority of The Singles: 1996-2006 is pretty much what you'd expect if you've heard any of the band's radio hits over the years, but it also contains a few acoustical surprises tacked on to the end of it.
Dedicated fans of Staind (vocalist/guitarist Aaron Lewis, guitarist Mike Mushok, bassist Johnny April, and drummer Jon Wysocki) will likely the find that there is everything you'd want to be featured on a best-of Staind album. It's Been Awhile, Outside, and Price To Play are just a few titles on the well-rounded track list. The recording of Outside was actually done on the Family Values Tour, a smart move that gives the CD a little bit of freshness when you're already familiar with the songs. The newer acoustic take is pretty dead-on the original, but it still manages to have a bare bones, raw feel that was missing from the Break The Cycle version.
The band actually makes a really gutsy move on The Singles by performing 3 beloved classic tunes acoustically: Nutshell (Alice In Chains), Sober (Tool), and Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd). While some of you might cringe at the prospect of taking on songs that were pretty much done perfectly the first time around, the band deserves credit for taking a chance. The results are mixed, however. Nutshell sounds very similar to Unplugged Alice In Chains' performance, but without the haunting vocals by Layne Staley. Sober just does not compare with Tool's powerful rendition and Lewis strains to tackle Maynard James Keenan's flawless wail. While Comfortably Numb is nothing like the original, Staind does a nice job of combining both acoustic and electric elements into it.
The Staind compilation is a must for the band's fanbase, but it does lack the edge that a lot of other bands have these days. The songs do tend to get a bit repetitive at times, and it may not be enough to keep everyone's interest. But there is a reason why the band continues has lasted a decade, and the latest CD is a testament to that. // 8
Lyrics: You can tell there is a lot of honest emotion in Staind's lyrics, and that is probably one of the best aspects of the band. Lewis lays his thoughts out there in the open, even when it puts him in a vulnerable spot.
A good example of this honesty comes in Epiphany, where Lewis talks candidly about his emotions. He sings, I am nothing more than a little boy inside; That cries out for attention; yet I always try to hide; 'Cause I talk to you like children; Though I don't know how I feel. These are words you might hear at a therapy session, so it's to Lewis' credit that he has the courage to put it all out there.
The biggest problem with the lyrics is that they repeat themselves too much at times. It's Been Awhile is the prime offender, but the monotony actually might have been a blessing for the band given that single's big success. He sings, And it's been awhile since I could hold my head up high; And it's been awhile since I first saw you; And it's been awhile since I could stand on my own two feet again. There is still an honesty there, and that makes up for the format in a big way. // 8
Overall Impression: If you're a fan of harder, more riff-oriented rock, Staind will likely leave you a bit cold. Most of the band's rock songs are more chord-driven, and there are definitely a large amount of ballads. There won't be a lot that you haven't heard on the radio for that matter.
The band has covered a lot of ground over the years with its straightforward rock, and radio has eaten it up. Whether that's a good or bad thing, The Singles is thorough look at the band's work and there aren't a lot of holes in it. The addition of some rare unplugged covers gives fans all the more reason to purchase the best-of CD. // 8