Collective Soul (2009)
REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/27/2009
Finally! After seven previous attempts at bat, Collective Soul has their masterpiece. Not only does it blow their other self-titled release from 1995 out of the water, but it cements their status as the best modern rock band since The Cars (the band that was so influential in the creation of their sound). You can hear the New Wave element in full force on “Love.” Affectionately known as the Rabbit album, titled perhaps in reference to their new label Roadrunner? Or because it didn’t take them much time to record? Whatever the reason, this has everything we have come to love about this band from Georgia, namely upbeat, hook-laden tunes that beg you to turn it up loud.
So far Ed and Dean Roland and company have had their ups and downs this decade. Starting with the critical drubbing they received when Blender was released (remember the haircuts?), then having to go the indie route and tour their asses off for the stellar Youth and the misguided Target promotional-only Afterwords (bad title – it makes it sound like they’ve called it a day). There was also being dumped by Atlantic and the ever-changing lineup – exit Ross Childress, Shane Evans, and Ryan Hoyle, enter Joel Kosche. Even though they’ve now been reduced to a quartet (only Will Turpin has stayed loyal to the Rolands), you would never know it from the quality music to be found on their eighth album, Rabbit.
The tempo changes on “My Days” make for a unique, yet interesting listen – it’s like two songs in one. What makes songs like “Fuzzy” and “Understanding” stand out is their anthem-like feel. There’s even a whistle-while-you-work thing going on “Fuzzy” that is sure to make you feel warm and, well, fuzzy! You’ll be humming both tracks instantly after you hear them…we’ll have to see if they ever see the light of day as singles, though. Unfortunately, the band released what is the most lackluster song on Rabbit as their first single, namely “Staring Down.” Guess they felt as the other tracks were far too risky in trying to reach middle America on the radio. We’ve just heard far too many songs like it from this band before.
Even when the pace slows a tad on “You,” we forgive Collective Soul because it is such a strong cut. As strong as Youth was, the ballads on that one were pretty weak and only disrupted the flow of what could have been a much more cohesive package. This time around, though, the ballads have been perfected and none of them stand out like sore thumbs. What is so striking about the last song “Hymn For My Father” is the fact that has Ed singing over nothing put a piano. It’s as simple a song as you will ever hear from this band, and it may never happen again – so touching to hear Ed pay reverence to his father, who is/was a preacher. I just hope he’s still alive to hear it. Just a reminder that it’s never too late to tell your parents that you love them.