Collective Soul Just Can’t Shine
Collective Soul – Collective Soul (Rabbit)
August 25, 2009
Victim of Loudness War? Yes
Collective Soul initially captured the attention of rock fans worldwide with their massive 1993 hit, “Shine,” a catchy mid-tempo track that called upon all the best characteristics of 1970’s rock to produce an undeniable winner. The track was included on the band’s debut, Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, which featured more of the same kind of music and catapulted the band into mainstream popularity. It wasn’t until the band’s sophomore release, 1995’s Collective Soul, that the band truly came into their own as they unleashed four chart-topping hits and secured themselves as a viable force in rock music.
The thing that was instantly apparent about a Collective Soul album was that it was a place to store four or five songs intended for single release with four or five other songs that could only be deemed as filler. But this was generally okay, considering the songs they had to offer as singles were unmistakably catchy, containing solid riffs and arena-ready choruses that almost defied the listener not to like them. Thus, it was easy to overlook the duds that surrounded them on the album, as the singles were more than enough to make the purchase price seem worth laying out.
Enter Rabbit, the band’s eight studio album. Rather than following the previously-described pattern of a Collective Soul release, Rabbit seems to be entirely comprised of filler and an obvious example of a band that’s out of ideas. Granted, there are moments when Ed Roland and Co. seems to be reaching their previous success, but they are quickly overcome by bland riffs, formulaic choruses and sterilizing production. Not one song of the eleven included here has the hooks or heart to be remembered much past its three or four minute length, a major disappointment for a band that has a reputation for achieving exactly the opposite.
Ever since the band’s most experimental release, 2001’s Blender, flopped on the charts, the band seems hell-bent on reclaiming their former success rather than going where the music takes them. Despite it being a commercial dud, Blender was an artistic success that saw the band blending more pop elements into their alt-rock formula. Even that album had some major hooks, though, as evidenced by “Why Pt. 2” and “Perfect Day,” but it was too far astray from their polished guitar sound that it alienated fans. So, the band took a brief hiatus and returned with 2004’s Youth, an album that discarded the risks and attempted to draw water from a virtually dry well, much the same as Rabbit attempts to do. It didn’t work in 2004 and it’s hardly working now.
That’s not to say that Rabbit is devoid of bright spots. The album opener, “Welcome All Again” is the closest thing the record has to a success and might even see some radio play when it is released as the second single. “Fuzzy” would be another winner if it wasn’t for the inexplicable inclusion of a whistle as its main hook. “Dig” is another contender for a single, but it ultimately sags from the weight of the goal it is trying to achieve. Even the first single, “Staring Down,” has some potential, but again it falls short of the sights it has set for itself.
It’s a shame to see Collective Soul in this rut, considering the songwriting talent of leader Ed Roland. After all, when Roland is on, he’s on and he has given listeners some of the best rock songs of the last two decades. But when his idea tank is out of gas, there’re no studio tricks or guitar layering that can provide a smokescreen. One can only hope that Collective Soul will find their niche once again and do what feels right rather than what will get them to the top of the charts again. Their Billboard days are over and its time they do what other acts in their category have done – stick to the heart and not the head when it comes to songwriting. Only then can things really start to gel again.
– Ian Rice
To purchase Collective Soul’s Rabbit, please click here.
And as with all negative reviews here at The Record Review, here’s a clip from when the artist shined:
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