- WIN Collective Soul's new CD, Youth- Read our interview with Frontman Ed RolandHailing from the Stockbridge - a small town in the southern state of Georgia - Collective Soul formed in 1992 and are usually classed as "post-grunge" (though it's hard to think of a more meaningless genre name) or sometimes as "trad rock" (an equally silly name).
That said their set up could definitely be seen as "traditional" - Ed Roland on vocals and rhythm guitar, his brother Dean and Joel Kosche on guitars, Will Turpin on bass, and Shane Evans on drums. Over the years they've toyed with all sorts of accompaniment - from violins to saxophones - but have kept the core of the instruments firmly in the realm of rock. Youth is their sixth album, coming after an uncharacteristically long four-year break following the unsuccessful Blender.
Youth could be viewed in one of two ways: either as a return to old form after a disastrous experiment, or as a reversion to type by a band desperate to hold onto their dwindling fan base by returning to a tried and tested formula. As always, the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes. Youth is certainly a much better album than Blender, but it doesn't approach the range and power of their best album, Dosage (1999), or even the fresh sincerity of their debut, Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid (1993).
The tracks in Youth all display the trademark crispness and professionalism that has earned Collective Soul so many admirers. But they lack the X-factor that elevated hits like "Shine" and "Run" above the throng of also-ran pop-rock tunes. Part of the problem is that the world had literally moved on since 1993. Their messy-but-controlled sound seemed far more compelling back then - before bands like Matchbox 20 and the Goo Goo Dolls had beaten the life out of it.The other problem is that the tracks simply aren't that special. Sure they're stuffed with hooks and catchy riffs. Sure they're well played and well produced. But that just isn't enough to make great rock music. Several of the tracks sound very like recycled versions of their previous hits - so much so that, when you play it as background music, it's sometimes hard to tell this album and their greatest hits CD (7EVEN Year Itch) apart.
Youth is an extremely short album - it comes in at just under 38 minutes. This may disappoint some fans but is certainly better than padding the album with inferior tracks. Perhaps this brevity is a sign that the quintet is sitting on material for another album and we won't have to wait four years for another release. If so, there may be hope that they again can rise to the heights of Dosage. If not, then mainstream rock will be altogether poorer for it. One thing is certain - Collective Soul are running out of time to become superstars.
- Alistair Fairweather
WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID"While the ballads are still a little too saccharine, there aren't many of them, and the rest of the record is fizzy, outsized, hooky, trashy fun."- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide"Youth wisely rewinds on the parts of that formula that didn't work (no prettying up of the band in the promo photos this time) and saves the parts that did (wonderfully crisp, modern, danceable, uptempo rock and roll) to create the ideal comeback record."- Jason Damas, Pop Matters
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