This work is clearly less evolved than later works by Staind. One thing I generally miss on this album, having heard Staind's later stuff first, is the sheer weight of the sounds heard in the professionally recorded albums. It's plenty raw, and Staind's riffs can be a real kick in the tender-bits when they have enough bass to support them, but this is lacking in that area. It's a decent album, I just hope you've got a hell of a sub-woofer to compensate for the lack of bass. o.O Another place I give Staind credit is that even in their early career, Jon Wysocki knew how to be inventive with the drums, and where they had a sort of bipolar dynamics going on in the intensity of their writing, he knew how to dial it back for a few bars and then wail on the cymbals when it was time for the intensity to pick-up. I don't have much to say for Aaron Lewis on this album - his real depth-of-spirit would emerge later, and I guess I'm fine with that.
"Tolerate" - There's a neat riff here. The intermittent ::strumSQUEAL, strumSQUEAL:: reminds me of at least one song from the later "Dysfunction" album, but Staind has largely stopped writing like this. I could do without the narrative-intro-thingy, but it adds to the desperation conveyed in the song pretty well. The chorus is definitely a 'Mike Mushok Original,' and contains elements of his writing style retained in Staind's later career but still shows his then-youthful and (I dare-say) previously immature approach as an instrumentalist.
"Come Again" - This has more bass, so it's a welcome relief. The guitar work is complex and active enough to keep my happy, but not the most ingenious thing I've ever heard. Overall it's kind of your token oldschool confrontationalist song, but listening to it brings a sort of excitement because of my familiarity with the immensity and more-evolved nature of material that was coming in their future.
"Painful" - I love Mushok's guitar here. Now his tonal and rhythmic resourcefulness is really coming out, and Wysocki and April clearly have no problem following-suit. Also, I had no idea that there was guitar-soloing going on in Staind this early in their career. I think they just refrained from it for so many years because they don't have a confident enough second guitarist to keep the rhythm going while Mike lays down a solo.
"Mudshuvel" - This track is kind of like the one-toothed, wife-beater-and-coveralls-wearing, whisky-guzzling, poorly-groomed and ill-bred cousin of the "Mudshovel" that would appear on "Tormented." The boys clearly had some work to do on their chops when they wrote and recorded this, and it wasn't pieced-together very thoughtfully at all. I know that sounds pretty harsh, but I almost feel sick to my taste in metal when I listen to this. Mbleckhhh... o_____o
"See-Through" - I was surprised to hear Mike use pinch-harmonics/squealies in this, although he could've chosen to be a little more creative than the exact same one played three times in a row for each repetition of the main riff. He knew his way around a fretboard better than that, even back then. It's not a very exciting song, but I guess it could make good background music while you grit your teeth and lift weights or slave-away in a steel-mill or something... Man, I'm in a really foul mood today, aren't I? o.O
"4 Walls" - Easily the song with the most depth on this album. I could *REALLY* do without the melodramatic spoken narrative, but when I listen to this song I can hear the band's as-yet un-tapped potential.
Anyway, this album gets two stars from me. It's got enough complexity for a listen every once in awhile, but it's hardly going to be a 'frequent-flyer' in my speakers.