Collective Soul – [Album]

Saturday, 22 August 2009

It's been two years since Collective Soul released an album and eight since the band began experiencing personnel problems (lead guitarist Ross Childress left in 2001, and the band is on its third drummer since 2004) but, from the moment “Welcome All Again” crashes through speakers to open the record, there isn't anyone listening that would know it. Brimming with totally refreshed urgency, “Welcome All Again” feels like the anthem that long-time listeners have been hoping for since the band released their self-titled sophomore effort in 1996, instead of the succession of static and forgrettable trifles that all but buried the band in the eyes of even some of their most rabid fans. Each successive middling release (particularly after founding and releasing albums through their own indie label, E!) placed their future into question. All such speculation gets erased by Rabbit's eleven spry, southern-fried rockers though, and as each one builds the energy in succession without letting a single drop fall, even the cynics know it's true: Collective Soul is back.

The band is pretty smart about how they play it out here too. At no point hinting that it may have ever faltered or misstepped even once in the last ten years, Collective Soul effortlessly rekindles both the swagger and stomp of their self-titled, sophomore album as well as the soul that won them fans initially on Hints, Allegations And Things Left Unsaid and lets those sounds dominate Rabbit without trying to tack any of their rudderless later work onto the proceedings. Songs like “Welcome All Again,” “My Days,” “Understanding” and “Lighten Up” all rock with a fire thought long-extinguished in Collective Soul while “She Does” and “You” remember “The World I Know” and its delicacy with fondness. At each turn, it's obvious that Collective Soul has taken great care to redeem itself with those fans left long-lost by the band in their early years and the earnest push in the performances seems genuine as Ed Roland pours his heart onto each lyric sheet and wrings it dry before moving to the next step; it's actually endearing to hear a multi-platinum-selling band make such an earnest effort.

As it happens, it's entirely possible that, with these songs in front of them, Collective Soul may have decided that it was the best possible time to try playing within the confines of the major label machine and finally give audiences something that recalls all that was best about them in the first place. The gamble proves to pay out here; while they may have never left, Rabbit plays like the finest form of comeback record for this band; damning the albums that threatened to torpedo their career over the last ten years, Collective Soul has gone back to their beginnings and surprised everyone (including themselves, probably) by producing a great album that, while sounding new, recalls the band's old potency.


Collective Soul – "Staring Down" – [mp3]

Rabbit comes out on August 25, 2009 on Roadrunner Records. Pre-order it on Amazon.

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