CD Review of The Singles (1996-2006) by Staind

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The Singles (1996-2006)
starstarstarstarno star Label: Flip/Atlantic Records
Released: 2006
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“Greatest Hits” packages are always a tricky deal. The idea alone implies that a band has released enough quality material to warrant an “enshrinement” of sorts, so that future generations can get the gist of a band’s drift on a single 5-incher. Lately it seems like every band, regardless of number of records released, has a compilation disc ready for the shelves.

Staind has been one of the most curious survivors of the nu-metal movement. Fronted by the always-distressed Aaron Lewis, Staind went from balls-to-the-wall heavy (1996’s Tormented and 1999’s Dysfunction) to a group who released three subsequent albums of nothing but MTV-friendly radio rock ballads. By the release of last year’s Chapter V, Lewis had even quit whining and started dishing out advice for a better life (maybe he realized that you can only have so many millions and still be a miserable piece of jelly).

The Singles kicks off with a remix of Tormented’s “Come Again,” a brutal and unrelenting track both musically and lyrically (“If you have to walk my way / Have something to say / Get the fuck away / Can't take one more day / I cannot conform”). I guess that final stanza would prove to be a bit of a fib down the road. “Mudshovel” follows, and it still packs a punch, as does the early ballad “Home.” From here current Staind groupies can settle in, as you get the Family Values version of “Outside,” the version that really put them on the map, “It’s Been Awhile,” the band’s hugest single to date, and the rest of the singles through Chapter V.

Had the collection called it quits there, we’d have a seriously sub-par disc on our hands with little justification for a recommendation. Fortunately, the final four tracks are startlingly good acoustic offerings. Staind’s own “Everything Changes” kicks off this portion, and it sounds beautiful. The next three are all tracks that seem untouchable, but the band produces amazing versions of each. Since Layne Staley’s death, nearly every group in the genre has covered Alice in Chains’ “Nutshell,” but this version is so gorgeous that Layne himself may have been moved to tears, and that’s saying something. Next up is a cover of Tool’s “Sober,” and Staind must be given props for pulling this off. Talk about a track that seems about as acoustic un-friendly as you can get, this is probably the most compelling listen on the whole disc. Rounding things out is a solid cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”

As with any compilation of this kind, there are notable tracks missing, namely “Fade” from 2001’s Break the Cycle and “Just Go” from Dysfunction. As a moderate fan of Staind, the collection reminded me of what conformists they have become, but the acoustic renditions really won me over. For avid fans, pick this up, pray for rain, and enjoy!

~Bill Clark