Sound — 5
It was literally the very first song that Collective Soul composed, the ubiquitous "Shine," that would be their biggest hit ever - and it was because of the song's initial success that got sole composer Ed Roland to make Collective Soul a full-time band. But though such immense success of this band's first single created an initial spur of momentum that had their first four albums do well commercially, that momentum would eventually dissipate by their flopping fifth album, "Blender," which resulted in the band parting ways with Atlantic Records shortly after.
In spite of this, Collective Soul continued on with making music by establishing their own label, El Music Group, where they released 2004's "Youth" and 2007's "Afterwords," before signing to Roadrunner Records to release their eighth album, 2009's self-titled album (also known as "Rabbit"). Having gotten back onto a big record label again, it seemed like Collective Soul's second wind had the band back in full swing; but instead, they would shortly go on hiatus to attend to numerous side projects.
Six years since their last album, Collective Soul have returned to release their ninth album, "See What You Started by Continuing," which, indicative by the title, is the band intending to usher in a third wind. But whereas their previous album was concerned with covering an array of styles and instrumental sounds (including a well-stocked pedal board), "See What You Started by Continuing" narrows the band's focus down to easily-digestible hard rock arrangements. Among the more general cuts (like the swingy "Hurricane," the downcast "Tradition," and the easygoing pop rocker "AYTA") and those that bear a hint of post-grunge flavor a la early era Collective Soul (like in "This" and "Exposed"), the band churn out a few classic rock pastiches; from the Springsteen-esque ballad of "Without Me" and the horn-infused homage to Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in "Am I Getting Through," to the galloping guitar riff in "Life" that calls back to Heart's "Barracuda." All in all, the album's sound is an appeal to the standard style of Collective Soul, but while some aspects are better left unchanged (like bassist Will Turpin's captivating bass activity, and lead guitarist Jesse Triplett's skillful guitar solos), the choice to journey on paths previously beaten by the band substitutes intrigue with safety.
Lyrics — 8
Roland's lyrics in the early years of Collective Soul's discography were well-rooted in his Christian faith, but in the band's later albums, his lyrics have branched out more into dealing with the ups and downs of his personal relationships. With his lyrics in the previous "Rabbit" being much more uplifting (as well as bringing back another dose of faith-based subject matter), Roland's lyrics in "See What You Started by Continuing" play the following yang to that yin by being more crestfallen, and via a loose concept, he details a number of stages throughout a toxic relationship.
Though he describes early on how flighty and liable this significant other is in "Hurricane" and "Exposed," his ambivalence between wanting to stay with this person and completely be rid of them sways back and forth in "This" and "Confession." With Roland again thinking with his head rather than his heart in identifying how unwell his relationship is in "Contagious" ("It's been years since it felt right"), he breaks things off in the following "Life" and sticks to his guns of offering no chance for reconnection in "Am I Getting Through" ("I'm not looking to start / I only want it to end").
But in the wake of his defiant separation, his ambivalence promptly comes back in the form of regret, heard in the pining loneliness "Memoirs of 2005," and his woeful wishing for things to be fine like they were in the past in "Tradition." In the end, however, Roland points out the blessed and cursed position of neutrality that this ceased relationship holds in "Without Me" ("Love won't let you down / Love won't lift you up / Love won't do a thing / Without me"), which, while directed at the second person, is just as much a consoling moral for Roland in this separation.
Overall Impression — 6
In its literal sense, "See What You Started by Continuing" lives up to its name by being a meat-and-potatoes return for Collective Soul and their general rock style, as well as paying homage to its influences. But with the album also being the ninth effort from the band, its output of sticking to a sonic recipe that the band has used plenty of times before bears a palpable staleness. Ultimately, the album wants to continue what it started by triumphantly rehashing the band's golden years from two decades ago, but instead, its echo doesn't ring as strongly as the original golden years.