Ozzfest was huge in the late 1990's, but for a brief time, the Family Values Tour had more cachet. The Family Values Tour was a justifiable display of power chord avarice by Korn. Rather than funnel tour revenue to burned out Black Sabbath remnants, Korn started their own tour and brought their friends with. One of the groups that Korn repeatedly shoved down the consumers' throats was Staind, a Massachusetts quartet fronted by Aaron Lewis. Any time Jonathan Davis is shoving something towards your food hole, you would be wise to take defensive action. Unfortunately with Staind, most of us didn't learn this until it was too late.

In addition to serving as the opening act for 7,438 Korn shows between November and December of 1998, Staind introduced itself to the world with its mainstream debut album, Dysfunction. As with Limp Bizkit, Staind's freshman effort still garners a great deal of respect. This phenomenon of people hating the last efforts of the nu metal bands, but still enjoying their initial work, raises an interesting question. Is it possible that the genre just got watered down, that nothing really changed except the consumer's taste? Or did these bands rape the formula until it had nothing left to give? Not to endlessly beat the same irrating dead horse, but gems like this from Limp Bizkit . . .

But I want you, ain't nothing wrong with wanting you
cause I'm a man and I can think what the hell I want, you got that straight?
No doubt that (no doubt) I'd love to (I'd love) sniff on them panties now....

. . . remove all doubt about the answer.

Honorable Mention: Dope

Dope would have been a fixture on this list if not for the fact that for 95% of their career they have been flat broke. This a noteworthy feat, considering "they" consists of three dozen various band members that have served as Edsel Dope's backing group. And yes, "Edsel Dope" is the third most common American name combination behind "John Smith" and "David Johnson."

My first Dope concert experience summed up their career perfectly. Somehow I ended up on the guest list, despite never hearing one of their songs. At least they forfeited that potential $20 on a devoted fan. This was on a tour that Dope was funding themselves because their label had dropped them. I learned from someone in the know that Edsel spent the entirety of the musical undercard on the bus slaving over the band's new album. And yes, I know, my Dope connections do cement me as "the man."

When Edsel finally got done cutting checks and mixing tracks, he squeezed in the time to come out and perform for the small group of Dope fans and unfamiliar people who ended up on the guest list. I should not have been surprised that he was wearing pajama pants that said, "Leave me alone!" all over them. And then he complained that the venue was way too big for his band. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be label-less rock stars.
Like the final horn of an NBA game, the undisputed high spot of the Dysfunction album was a tune called, "Mudshovel." Frankly, I think Mudshovel is probably the reason why most people still look fondly on the Dysfunction album. With an addictive baseline and the kind of grumpy vocals that keep metal the choice of the world's pessimists, Mudshovel was a staple of nu metal radio playlists. I freely admit the subject matter isn't exactly trailblazing (this is essentially a durable version of "Nookie,") but I'm not looking to a song called "Mudshovel" for cerebral songwriting. Mudshovel still kicks ass and it carries the otherwise forgettable treble clef collection that comprises the rest of the album.

Mudshovel, Dysfunction, and a Siamese connectivity to Korn n' pals brought Staind to the fore of the teenage metal consciousness. It was with great anticipation that Staind released their sophomore effort, "Break the Cycle." This record received heavy radio play with its first single, "Outside" in anticipation of the release. "Outside" was a good song. In retrospect, I placed too much predictive weight on the quality of "Outside" and too little weight on the soon-to-be-disastrous precedent being set by the constant radio play of Staind.

When Break the Cycle was finally in my possession, I immediately thought it was a lachrymose bucket of shit. And it got played on the radio all.the.time. In retrospect, I gave it a bit of a bum rap. Tracks like "Pressure" are better than I initially gave them credit for. Entries like "Epiphany," though, are as unlistenable as they were when my acne-covered face first desperately tried to vomit on the CD and ruin it.

Despite the immediate and intense hatred of myself and those similarly situated, Break the Cycle was an incredible success. It charted #1 in the countries that matter, and went 40x platinum in Hell for obvious reasons. It bears mentioning that this was back when hitting #1 meant you were pushing a lot of product, unlike today where #1 billing means twelve people unfamiliar with BitTorrent bought your album on iTunes. With Break the Cycle defining Staind's career, its representation of nu metal had to come from this album. Staind's nu metal idol is undoubtedly track 4, "It's Been Awhile."

It's Been Awhile --- Break the Cycle --- 2001

The Song

"It's Been Awhile" was an obvious turning point for the band, deciding to forsake the baseline metal crowd it had established and make a grab at something bigger. Credit must be given to Staind because it worked, at least for awhile. But therein lies the problem: Metal never remains mainstream popular for very long. If you doubt this, ask Kip Winger to explain the next time he rotates your tires. Metal fans, on the other hand, are fiercely loyal. Unless you really screw it up by writing country songs (See: Rock, Kid) or just make the unilateral decision to create a machine of human suffering (See: Back, Nickel) metal fans are going to stay behind you. If you're into Dying Fetus, it's unlikely that Katy Perry's latest aural lollipop is going to usurp your iPod.

Anyway, "It's Been Awhile" is a lame and simple yearner. Aaron Lewis looks at pictures thinking about some girl from his past, all the while wistfully remembering those days as better times. It's a really dull song, but he does use clear swear words which were fun to fill in on the radio version. Which leads me to . . .


When I clicked on the "It's Been Awhile" video on YouTube, it had been viewed 1.68 million times. Oh how the mighty have fallen, because that's how many times it was played on single radio frequencies in 2001-02. I had never and will never loathe another song as much as a result of overplay as "It's Been Awhile."

With the modern advent of iPods, satellite radio, and growing up, none of us are that reliant on rock radio anymore. But back in 2001, it was still a staple of your music diet. Radio stations around the country beat their listeners senseless with this 4:26 of incessant droning. Aaron Lewis may not have been able to blame this on his father, but I blame every person that made a dime off the royalties to this song, and the tropical island those royalties doubtlessly were able to purchase.

(Sic) Lyric

But everything I can't remember as fucked up as it may seem
the consequences that I've rendered
I've gone and fucked things up again

While the salve of time has removed a lot of the hatred I once possessed for this song, the word "rendered" in the tune is still fitting. "It's Been Awhile" on my radio was as pleasant as a vat of hog fat, and was only slight less capable of bringing the bile from my innards to my adidas.


The video is as pedestrian as the actual tune. Fitting I suppose, but I really hate the candle scene because it seems like an unrepentant ripoff of the Alice in Chains Unplugged. If Staind meant it as some sort of crappy tribute, it was a mistake. Mike Mushok is no Jerry Cantrell and Aaron Lewis could at least have had the decency to crap his pants and forget the words to "Sludge Factory."

Leonardite.com © 2011
Dedicated to The Stick