Staind seem to sneer at the very notion of forward movement on the title of their sixth album, The Illusion of Progress, and that disdain very well may be a Freudian slip, as the Springfield, MA, rock band stubbornly refuses to evolve over the course of a decade. If anything, with each album their aggression erodes and the angst of frontman Aaron Lewis mellows into a mild grumpiness that surfaces only when he's not singing profane songs of devotion, which is most of the time. Ballads have always been his forte, a convenient vehicle for his quivering sensitivity and accidental melodicism, yet it's still startling how slow The Illusion of Progress unfolds, as Staind rarely muster the energy to move beyond midtempo even when they deign to crank up their amps for anthems of mild alienation or vague inspiration. Instead, they prefer to spend their time plucking electrics as if they were acoustics, creating arpeggios that recall "It's Been a While" while sidestepping replication because this slow, stately crawl is now the sound of Staind: they're easy listening grunge, music for recovering extreme sports addicts. So, it should come as no surprise that The Illusion of Progress is filled with love songs from Lewis, a married father of three who pledges his commitment and chronicles his insecurities and dreams in moody minor chords; it's not just an album recorded at his home studio, it's about his home. As always, Lewis' sincerity is disarming and strangely endearing, as unlike so many of his posturing peers he seems like a genuinely good guy, which is enough to make it hard not to wish that he could break free from his inadvertent lyrical clichés, clumsy expletives, and obvious Bob Dylan allusions, to say something specific instead of something sweeping, but that would be progress, something that Staind don't desire because they're perfectly content with where they are.
The Illusion of Progress Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine