Retro-Review: ‘Stain’ by Living Colour

Living Colour is probably known to a generation as the people who did “the CM Punk song,” which is their single “Cult of Personality” from their 1988 album Vivid.

But, those are not the only song and album that they’ve been recognized for, nor should they be.

Their 1993 album, Stain, makes that point.

The quality of the album alone shot it to No. 26 on the Billboard 200. This is even when they were virtually ignored by MTV, their songs being relegated to Headbangers Ball and 120 Minutes.

Despite the lack of MTV play, their post-Vivid material would be acclaimed, garnering them Grammy nominations and sales would remain healthy.

Stain was their last album before Living Colour dissolved in 1995. They reformed in 2000 and are currently still together as a band.

The band’s lineup on Stain is vocalist Corey Glover, guitarist and guitar synth player Vernon Reid, bassist Doug Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun.

The album

Go Away” is a strong first track with a catchy pre-chorus and some nifty bass fingering by Wimbish. It’s a pretty rocking and heavy track, showing that Living Colour definitely belongs under “metal” if you were to categorize it.

Other tracks that you could call outright “metal” include the frenetic and fast “Auslander,” which was the first single for the album. It’s a pretty good song but never really got any regular airplay outside of the Headbangers Ball. “This Little Pig” is also a pretty heavy song with it’s fast crunching guitar and Glover adopting a punkish vocal style.

Living Colour mixes metal, groove and funk a lot on this album, with tracks like “Ignorance is Bliss” and the closing song “Wall” on the funky side of things and “Bi” on the groovy. They even get a little avant garde with “Mind Your Own Business” and a little dub steppy with “WTFF.”

Leave it Alone” is a definite stand out on the album with a catchy and memorable chorus. “Leave it Alone” was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Hard Rock Performance.” It’s easy to tell why. No other song on the album is similar and the band is on top of their game. Some good guitar soloing in this one as well.

I can’t say there’s a single bad song on this album. Living Colour didn’t do any filler on Stain, each song is distinct and stands out from the rest.

If there’s one issue I have with Stain, it’s the production has moments where it sounds thin. There’s just something lacking in the guitar sound at points throughout and they just sound sort of “thin” to me. This isn’t a thing throughout the entire album, it just pops up occasionally. It isn’t enough to bring it down, though.

The verdict

Stain is a great album that has been overlooked. Yeah, there is the little problem with the guitar’s sound on the album, but that’s relatively minor.

Would I recommend it?

Well, there’s probably not much on Stain that’ll appeal to hardcore death metal or thrash metal fans. But for those who like variety, then Living Colour has delivered something right up that alley. This is an album you can sit and listen to without getting bored and if you got the money to spare, I definitely recommend putting a little of it toward buying Stain.

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