Sound — 7
Collective Soul is polished to perfection, but somehow, and quite miraculously, the band avoids that sterile, too clean sound. But there's no denying that the album sounds fantastic and crisp as a Fall day. While the band sold millions of albums on the back of its ability to meld pop hooks with pure rock n roll bluster and on Ed Roland's songwriting deftness, this self-titled release (which is a habit of the band, to name their records Collective Soul) leans a bit more to the pop side of the spectrum. The first single Staring Down, with its catchier-than-an-STD-from-a-lady-of-the-night chorus and the woo-ooh part, will camp out in your brain and you'll find yourself humming the melody for hours on end. Fuzzy is a chunkier, more rock' tune, but it's still got a whistling part in the intro and is anchored by buzzy guitars, which reminds us that Collective Soul are a product of the 90s alt rock explosion and that they haven't turned their back on the era that made them famous. Love comes late in the sequencing and it's a near-perfect blend of modern pop and 90s pop, while Understanding is another song with an almost punky tempo that'll lodge itself under your skin like a splinter, but sans the annoyance factor. Roland's hit parade pleases rather than prickles!
Lyrics — 8
Again Ed Roland's repertoire has more hooks than a slaughterhouse! This guy has a template and a formula that has served him well and he doesn't deviate. That said, this Collective Soul doesn't sound like all the albums that preceded it. There's more of a pop polish, as we said, and he writes from the perspective of Everyman, so he's instantly easy to relate to. His voice is most mid-range and it imparts just enough emotion to make you curious about what he is saying. He's the reason that so many ladies count themselves among the Collective Soul diehards.
Overall Impression — 8
The 90s are over. We miss them and their years of prosperity. But Collective Soul are a pleasurable and pleasant reminder of a time gone by, when alternative music was all the rage and was definable. Now, no one knows what the hell constitutes this genre is it Fall Out Boy or Three Days Grace? But Collective Soul appeal to the nostalgia card of those who grew up in the post-80s era of the previously mentioned prosperity. These are good, quality, well-crafted songs that could certainly propel this band back into the national spotlight. The borrow from a sports metaphor, you win baseball championships with good pitching, rather than good hitting. Your songs carry the most weight and last into posterity with songsmanship, instead of following frivolous, flavor-of-the-month conventions. Collective Soul and Ed Roland have an embarrassment of riches on that front; they don't adapt to trends. Rather, they tune their attention to verse-chorus-verse, and other important details of strong, inimitable songcraft.