Sound — 9
Collective Soul are on a roll. After a mid-career crisis with several underperforming and underwhelming albums, the Stockbridge, Georgia, band left Atlantic Records in 2001 to record for their own indie label, El Music Group. Their first album on their own, 2004's Youth, found the band returning to the classic rock meets Southern-alternative sound they popularized with their first hit, 1994's Shine from their debut album Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid and which continued with 1995's December, Gel and The World I Know from their self-titled album. Touring constantly to support Youth, along with the releasing of an acoustic album and a double-CD backed by a symphony orchestra, both featuring some of their greatest hits, Collective Soul rebuilt their fan base and proved the '90s aren't about to fade away.
Collective Soul's latest album, Afterwords, doesn't depart from this sound, which should please fans and help get them a few more. Led by the Roland brothers, Ed on vocals and Dean on rhythm guitar, Collective Soul kick start Afterwords with New Vibration, a track that gives a nod to their past while looking to the future. Ed sings, I'm not running, I'm not chasing. I'm just looking for an old sensation, which he hopes will make for a new vibration. With this goal in mind, Collective Soul strive and succeed in updating their sound throughout Afterwords while never departing too far from what made them popular.
The first single, Hollywood, is actually their biggest departure from this sound. Aiming for mass appeal with this release, it's their most pop-sounding song in their entire discography. With sunny lyrics and a hummable melody, Hollywood may upset many long-time fans who will no doubt cry sell out. But Collective Soul know they need a radio hit to keep playing the game because people will need to seek out this album if they wish to purchase it. Afterwords is available only in physical form at Target retail stores (through an exclusive deal with the band) and digitally on iTunes. An album with limited availability needs all the mass market help it can get and Hollywoods radio appeal could help accomplish that.
Lyrics — 9
As with other Collective Soul albums, Ed Roland's lyrics tend to touch on religious and spiritual issues, while vaguely speaking to some significant other. On paper his lyrics seem pretty ordinary, but his delivery and the band's instantly recognizable sound help elevate them to levels other bands only wish they could reach. The album's worst song, I Don't Need Anymore Friends, featuring lyrics written and sung by lead guitarist Joel Kosche, demonstrates Roland's presence is greatly missed when he's not singing or songwriting.
Even this song's not so bad, and after just several listens to Afterwords, fans will find themselves singing along. Give them credit, because other bands with such a hearty rock and roll vibe, ahem Nickelback, ahem Hinder, ahem the next flavor of the week, could only dream of someday featuring lyrics half as good as Roland's.
Overall Impression — 9
A familiar yet not outdated sound combined with good lyrics, Afterwords more than delivers the goods. It's disappointing to know that its limited availability may prevent some potential fans from ever getting their hands on it, but hopefully word about the albums' strengths will spread and people will seek it out. The 10-track album clocks in at only a little more than 36 minutes. Like another band with a familiar sound, AC/DC, a short album length virtually guarantees people won't get sick of the album halfway through listening to it. Instead, they'll just want more.