To say Georgia band Collective Souls eighth studio LP sounds not that different than their previous efforts wont surprise many people. If anything, the most shocking aspect of that statement is that the band has released seven previous albums, not to mention a greatest hits collection and live disc. Its also not a sharp criticism of the band, either. If the songwriting aint broke, dont fix it.
The band undoubtedly made its name in 1995 with the release of its eponymous sophomore disc. Nary a moment went by without hearing December or Gel on the radio. Frontman Ed Rolands gruff (but not alienating) vocals were the epitome of mid-90s mainstream alternative rock: Low, pained and even a little sexy. Partner them with memorable choruses and enjoyable riffs, and its not hard to see why they were such hits. Perhaps Im nostalgic for the era, but I think the bands biggest hits have aged pretty well. December isnt exactly Paranoid Android, but I enjoy it when I hear it.
So then where does that leave Collective Souls newest release, another self-titled affair parenthetically anointed Rabbit? Well, if you like what the band has done up to this point and arent looking for any sort of mold-breaking, youre good. A track like Staring Down isnt specifically a rehash of any moment in the bands past work as much as its suitable for any album theyve made before. The simple piano work, acoustic guitar, soft percussion and oooh oooh backing vocals give you the sense that maybe youve heard this song before. Maybe it was on 2007s Afterwords, or maybe it was three tracks earlier on You. Collective Soul doesnt seem intent on remaking the same exact song over and over again, because nothing on here sounds like a pure ripoff. Instead, I suspect Roland and the group are so comfortable theyre not sure how to break out of the mold.
Thats not to say theyre not trying, as You and Understand are the first tracks the entire group has ever written together. Still, I dare you to say they sound radically different than any other track Rolland has penned solo. That said, there are moments where the music works, even if it doesnt deliver the song you were hoping for. The lead track Welcome All Again opens with promising distorted vocals and fuzzy instrumentation that suggest we might be in for an unconventionally structured song. Unfortunately, the verse/chorus routine comes in and breaks up the fun. The closer, Hymn For My Father, is exactly as youd expect. Its not the strongest lyrical effort theyve put forth, but its nice to hear them strip away all the excess noise and deliver a piano-vocals tune. In fact, I suspect She Does would be a stronger track if the bands four-part arrangements werent forced on it. Roland reigns in his voice and delivers a performance that admirably conveys a smitten rocker, which isnt easy to do. But its those damned guitars that overshadow him and his words.
I dont know that the band is looking to garner new fans with this release, as its not going to win over anyone who wasnt already pleased with their work. I can see a few tracks being hit singles, considering the success of Hollywood back in 2007. Still, Collective Soul (Rabbit) is an OK album by a band that can probably deliver more if only it wanted to.