Review Summary: Collective Soul keeps to the beaten path, but manages to spark a throwback to their comfortable decade here and there.
The main component Collective Soul has always been concerned with is 'accessibility' - and it doesn't take a real heap of acuity to see that. Tracking back to the year of their first single, "Shine", way back in 1993, the band really kept no secrets. Their motive was simple: make catchy, easily enjoyable singles, put them on an album surrounded by marginally above average songs, and fill the rest of the tracks up with whatever they can until they reach trusty number 12.
And damn if it didn't work - Collective Soul eventually made their way to the tip of the majority's tongue at the hands of a 'Greatest Alternative Rock Band of the 90's' discussion. They rely on a mature but manageable sound with not much to think about except to sit back and drink in the barefaced rock. Nobody would have expected this old dog to learn new tricks, yet lead singer Ed Roland promised their new release to be a rebirth for the band. Instead, they stick to hiking down the beaten path on their eighth studio album and second self-titled, Collective Soul (Rabbit)
It's evident while listening to Rabbit
that the band didn't rack their brains trying to shoot for the stars. Although they have little reason to experiment due to their genuine and friendly sound, the all-too-familiar rhythms and chords can come as a turnoff if Roland doesn't fight forth with his deep shaded voice to echo through and hook you. On instances like "Dig", Roland is able to take a no-brainer, straightforward rock tune and keep you onboard in time to reap a squealing guitar solo. On other songs, however, his voice can't afford to get lost, but it does. The electric guitar and dancing tambourine in "Lighten Up" slightly muffles Roland - and while it can be fun to follow the rhythm, the song gets lost on you until moving on to a twangy riff.
Nostalgia junkies will surely be exhilarated with the vast number of 'ode to 90's' songs. The second "You" beats in with a slow bass-snare-tambourine alternation and a sensitive guitar melody, it can wholeheartedly steal you and retrace the best years of your life. If "You" represents the kiss of the 90's, then "Understanding" assuredly represents the punch. Starting with a steady, flashing riff that resembles Local H's "Bound For the Floor", Roland kicks up a nice vocal line to compliment the sound before busting out into a 'school's out' type chorus. This energy spike would've been helpful if it were saved to follow the relaxer-rocker and lead single, "Staring Down". You could detect the typical lead single scent a mile away, even if you haven't heard it before. It has all of the symptoms of a buzzing ballad: the piano melody, the percussion touch-ups, the way the end of the verses break off before the chorus, the "ooh ooh ooh"
cooing of the background voices... Even though the song holds up its own, it can either become the steady bridge to the album's halves or a forgettable tune altogether.
When looking at Rabbit
for what it is, a cd to play loudly in your car for the summer or a gift to give your dad or mom, it can easily be seen as great. There is nothing disappointing with this release unless you expected Collective Soul to make an aboutface and blow your mind with demented riffs and abnormal lyrics. Then again, you should've figured that out as soon as the David Bowie embodiment, "Fuzzy", began with it's whistling simpleton groove. The band keeps true to its pledge to help alleviate the stresses of everyday hassles while also reinforcing Roland's ability to write deliberately polished songs. But even with all of the pleasant throwbacks to their favorable decade, there still lacks a true life of musical experimentation that a band should always strive to keep up. Nonetheless, Rabbit
remains to be a comforting breeze for the lighthearted.