Friday, September 4, 2009

Collection of Blah

Collective Soul: Collective Soul (2009)
[Roadrunner Records]

Collective Soul is the band’s second self-titled record, and their eighth studio release.

Did you know that? Collective Soul has put out eight studio albums? I didn’t know that.

Yeah…”Whoa-oh-ooh-whoa, [wah-oo-wah-oo-wah], brother let your light shine…” Yeah. Those guys.

The only Collective Soul record I’ve ever owned is, fittingly, their other self-titled release from 1995; I was a freshman in high school at that time. In many ways, Collective Soul (designated by the band as Rabbit, and hereafter referred to as such) reminds me of my fifteen year-old self: largely inoffensive due to being generally polite, but rather bland and indistinct due to having absolutely no balls. Thankfully, I managed to (over time) develop some confidence, mature, learn from life experiences, and am an entirely different person now, fourteen years later. Collective Soul, on the other hand, seems content to not only give this record the same name, but basically recreate the music of its fourteen year-old predecessor. As I said, it’s largely inoffensive, but absolutely equivalent to the sad, lonely man that would be writing this now had I not socially, emotionally and mentally progressed since the age of fifteen.

Being that my familiarity with Collective Soul has lapsed so completely, I did something different when listening to Rabbit: I took some notes.

Also, I only listened to it once, and probably will not again.

I didn’t write anything down for the opening track, “Welcome All Again,” because it’s actually pretty good. It’s catchy and upbeat with a decent lead riff. The rest of my notes, however, consist basically of multiple uses of the words “blah” and “90s,” punctuated by a few serious complaints. That’s the gist of Rabbit: a lot of unremarkable sound punctuated by some truly bad music. The second track, “Fuzzy,” for instance, is a train-wreck; between the completely obnoxious whistling, the not-at-all appealing melody, and the fact that it’s at least a full minute too long (at least), the phrase that I used to sum it up is “whole song sucks.” “Dig” finds Collective Soul attempting—unsuccessfully—to channel heavier modern bands like Anberlin or The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. “Understanding” is a prime example of why lead singer Ed Roland should really quit with the falsetto. There’s a decent guitar solo, but the extremity of the song’s tempo changes destroys any flow it may have had; jarring dynamics can work for certain bands—not this one.

“Understanding” and “You” are the first songs that Collective Soul has ever written together as a band. Ed Roland attributes this to “the confidence that the other guys have gotten in their music skills and the songwriting and also, for lack of a better term, me letting go of my ego a little bit...” Wow; two whole songs, huh? You, sir, are a shining example of selflessness.

Honestly, you don’t even need to hear an example track from Rabbit. Aside from a decent opener and a pretty little closer (“Hymn For My Father”), it offers nothing noteworthy. It’s milquetoast, with a couple of rotten eggs on the side. It’s slightly worse than bland, because the intermittent fart smell will distract you from your dozing. Imagine, if you will, that nondescript teenager, probably dressed in his very best concert t-shirt (Aerosmith, no less), meekly asking out a cute, self-possessed teenage girl who has a real identity and self-esteem and everything. You can’t even root for him as the underdog, because there’s absolutely nothing distinguishable on which to latch. Only as she’s letting him down briefly and politely (because he is completely uninteresting), he randomly shouts “what the FUCK?” a couple of times. Not pretty, is it? Almost as unpleasant as these continued and irrelevant 1990s high school analogies, right? (A side note: I never did the yelling thing.)

You, dear reader, are the cute girl. Just say no.


Spender said...

Usually, when a band releases an anonymous LP, it's meant to herald a major shift in their musical ambition. Apparently, that's not the case with this release.
A shame, really. Ed Roland has a passable "rock-lite" voice, has churned out a few decent riffs and come up with some pretty damned catchy sing along choruses. After listening to their second cd, I thought that these guys might have something going but subsequent work proved otherwise. A few decent tunes (Vent,Tell Me Why, Heavy) and a whole lotta meh. Glad you advised me to pass on this one.

Spender said...

...and by "anonymous" I meant "eponymous" and that's what I get for drinking at 10:45A.M.
Still, when it comes to this band, the words are interchangeable, yes?

Sean said...

Pretty much, sir. I did really like their second album, too. It was hooky and fairly original for the time. Listening to this one made me sad.

TK said...

Eight? EIGHT albums? How... where was I?

Oh, right. I never liked them, so I likely never paid attention. I'm putting CS in contention for the Blandest Band title.

chris said...

Not only did I like the original Collective Soul, but I still do. I actually...just listened...and sang it...two weeks ago.

But seriously! The vocal round on "December"? The strings on "The World I Know"? The excessive use of flanger on "Gel"? Haha I love every minute of that CD still - probably one of like five distinctly 90s-sounding records I still can enjoy all the way through.

Now off I go to torture myself with the new one.

TylerDFC said...

I have 1 Collective Soul album. The first. I was in college, on internship, and we got high a lot so I think that must be why I liked it. I saw them live a few years ago on one of those $5 nostalgia tour things (along with Fastball, remember them?) and they were surprisingly good. But 8 albums? There is no need for that.

Lizzie said...

I remember *really* wanting to own a Collection Soul album in high school. Never got around to it. Don't think that's going to change any time soon.

Spender said...

Okay... the FIRST cd had "Shine" andnot much else... the second cd had "Gel", "December Song" and other good songs. After that? Meh, go to Demonoid and download the decent (but very SLIM) pickings from the rest of their catalog.
My choices?
"Why, Pt 1", "Vent" and "Heavy"... and maybe,where the river flows.
The rest of you?
GRIZZLY (fucking) BEAR!

Spender said...

I may have had a beer or six, so excuse my lack of grammatical skill... and tact... buttholes.

Sean said...

I love you guys.