The Illusion of Progress
“The way I am/you’ll never change,” sings Aaron Lewis on Staind’s sixth studio album. He’s not kidding. For nearly a decade, Lewis and his bandmates have been immovable post-grunge loyalists, fiercely committed to the genre’s basics: midtempo songs in minor keys, sullen vocals and lyrics that distil the message Life Sucks and Then You Die. On The Illusion of Progress, they team up with producer Johnny K (Disturbed, Drowning Pool) to tweak the formula just a bit. The album opener, ”˜This Is It,’ is pro-forma post-grunge, but beneath his mewl, Lewis sounds almost contented (“It feels like this is good enough for me,” he sings). ”˜The Corner’ is a lush Pink Floyd-style space-rock epic with a full gospel choir. And on ”˜All I Want,’ Staind prove that when they veer from their grey-on-grey melodic palette and dedication to gloomy tidings, they are skilled pop balladeers. Most of the time, though, the band sticks to its comfort zone, with songs that proceed through a sequence of genre clichÃ©s as Lewis howls out woe-is-me’s and lists of grievances. “The shit I take,” he sings, “you already know.” All too well, dude.