Save touchy-feeliness, very little sets Staind apart from the other hyperproduced, sound-alike light metal acts to dominate rock radio playlists since grunge went away. The sensitivity knob stays turned up to 11 on "Chapter V," the Massachusetts quartet's fifth and latest release.
It's another record about feelings. Nothing more than feelings.
Take, for example, the opening track, "Run Away," on which singer Aaron Lewis confesses, "I'm not so good at showing how I feel." Or "Please," which finds him wishing "I wouldn't feel so out of place." Then on "Everything Changes," Lewis pines for a time when "I could learn to feel." And on "Take This," he whines, "I don't feel this." There hasn't been this much talk about feelings since the Wimp Rock heyday of the '70s; the boys from Bread could feel like one tough posse after glancing at a "Chapter V" lyric sheet.
But, to be fair, Staind's sound and look, what with Mike Mushok's baritone guitars and Lewis's fierce-looking piercings and tattoos, occasionally provide kids an edge to grab onto. The rhythm section, bassist Johnny April and drummer Jon Wysocki, gives fans a chance to feel the noise on the grungy "Cross to Bear" and "Paper Jesus," tunes that rely on the sort of religious metaphor that packs profundity until 10th grade. The most juvenile turn here comes with "Schizophrenic Conversations," which smells a lot like something dropped by those dumbbell laureates of nu metal, Nickelback, as Lewis threatens to "show how it feels to be [expletive in the past tense]-up like me."
With its unavoidable 2001 hit, "It's Been Awhile" (sample lyric: "Why must I feel this way?"), Staind showed that the band seems most adequate when melody and modesty triumph over crunch or rage. And on "Chapter V" that happens more often -- in "Right Here" and the Pearl Jam-like "Devil" -- than should be expected of a group that still cites Limp Bizkit's reviled frontman, Fred Durst, as its patron and mentor. (Staind's bio boasts that its big break grew out of a backstage brouhaha with Durst in 1997 when Bizkit was ascending.)
Staind has in the past gained power by going unplugged -- an acoustic version of "Outside," a tune Lewis recorded live with Durst (sample lyric: "And I feel all this pain"), once owned the airwaves. The catchiest track on the new record is also its most sissified; "Everything Changes" is a concert-ready soft serve tune that, like the slickest power ballad from those evil geniuses in Creed, is crafted to light an arena's worth of lighters.
Yet even in the heaviest material on "Chapter V" ("King of All Excuses," "Please"), there are no flashy guitar solos, and most of Mushok's power chords and chunk-a-chunk riffs have been compressed by producer David Bottrill into a mid-range heavy, white noisy drone. It's a mix over which Lewis can easily croon about, well, his feelings. Except when he's crooning about your feelings about his feelings: "Chances are you're oblivious to how I feel," he mopes on "Please." Oh, please.