Even if this album is nothing more than a watered down Pearl Jam record, with a lead singer that’s moreover a diabolical religious fundamentalist/alcoholic than an actual frontman, My Own Prison held its own at one time. Ten years ago. Today? Not so much. In a way, you can thank the internet and the downfall of modern rock for that.
Much of the late nineties suffered from the transgression that took place in rock n’ roll shortly after Kurt Cobain decided to eat lead for breakfast (or was he forced?). Grunge shifted into post-grunge, which then somehow eventually shifted towards nu-metal. In other words, a gradual construction of a primordial, musical hell. There is, after all, a reason why they use the latter for torture. Creed fits in the middle of that timeline. Undershirt fan Scott Stapp took his band of religious spinners out into the post-grunge genre, blending elements of that Seattle sound, while also integrating some of that metal angle that could be drawn back to post-Black Album Metallica.
So, why me?
While most music aficionados will lie and tell you they were spinning Wowee Zowee at age 12, I’ll be honest and admit that Creed’s debut was a sliver of my music collection. And yes, I was thirteen years old then. It started with “What’s This Life For” and the Halloween franchise. Reasons aside, I was (and still am) a hungry-for-horror Halloween fan, which began one summer afternoon in 1996, when I caught the original film on the USA Network. When word came around that Creed’s single would be featured in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, I went out and bought the album, which was in the bargain bin at Blockbuster Music. If that doesn’t date me as a person, or this entire spectacle, then I’m at a loss.
Let’s get this straight. There’s nothing spectacular about Scott Stapp. His singing is easy. Anyone who’s ever been in a choir class (god help me for spilling my guts on here) would know this. But it wasn’t really Stapp that hit any chord for me, it was Mark Tremonti’s guitar work. In songs “One” or as I’ve mentioned, “What’s This Life For”, the myriad scales and hard hitting choruses sent me over the proverbial “edge.” The instrumentation was lyrical in its own sense. Not to mention, the group still hadn’t hit it big with “Higher” yet, so, in a way, I claimed this album as my own.
Sad huh? I blame my hometown.
Growing up in South Florida might have its benefits. For one, I never had to spend a few hundred bucks at North Face and my one pair of sandals were all that was necessary to move around in. Unfortunately, for every positive, there are at least three to five negatives to follow behind it. The music scene? There wasn’t one. In the late nineties, the music scene in South Florida consisted of any mainstream act the radio stations could muster enough courage to invest itself in. Meaning that unless a band had three or four number one hit singles, nobody came down to Florida. This might explain why the state’s famous for Limp Bizkit, Creed, and several forgettable nu-metal festivals.
So why My Own Prison? Well, why not? The songs were catchy enough and it was a throwback sound to the early nineties. Anyone as a teenager then, who weren’t old enough to attend a Nirvana concert five years previous, would be an idiot to not dig in. Songs “Pity for a Dime”, “Illusion”, and “Torn” ripped apart my shitty, double cassette “boom box” every afternoon after school. It was, sadly, how I learned angst at age 13.
Holy shit is that depressing.
There’s a difference between pre-teenage angst and teenage angst. I had listened to several bands beforehand that all capitalized on the angst department (e.g. Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day), but those all arrived when I was at the tender age of eight to 10, when the only thing I needed to be depressed about was whether or not the video store had a copy in of the latest Mortal Kombat game. Creed came at the right time for me, literally the day or week of my 13th birthday. So is it such a surprise that I’d be sucked in, especially when the pulling song for me was “What’s This Life For”, which features lyrics like “I see your soul, its kinda grey/You see my heart, you look away/You see my wrist, I know your pain/I know your purpose on your plan”? Call it fate, call it what you will, but it happened.
Fortunately by 1999, with the abysmal Human Clay, Creed finally left my music collection. Songs “Higher”, “What If”, and the sour and cheesy “With Arms Wide Open” were just not the band I had come to appreciate. (Yes, I just said “appreciate” on the topic of Creed, sue me.) I can remember actually being a bit upset at the band’s sophomoric effort, meanwhile everyone in high school would drive by blaring the epic new sound. Here’s the real sad part of the story: Creed’s 2002 single “One Last Breath” actually found its way into a couple of my CD mixes.
Well, there goes my credibility in future album reviews! (Although, I’d like to believe that My Own Prison grabs a few more “cool” points than Devil With a Cause! Sorry Jay!) Nevertheless, my self loathing should pretty much present my own case here and that is: We all have guilty pleasures. Deal with ’em.