Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Collective Soul - Afterwords
Collective Soul always had it all; incredibly tight hooky songs, a great, unique-voiced lead singer, and of course, those riffs. Anyone who loves the band will always refer to the classic riffs they belted out in the nineties. Songs like "Shine," "Gel," and "Heavy" were monsters of post-grunge alt-rock, reaching through the radio-blah to grab you by the neck and demand you listen. Give them your full attention.
And we did. Through the nineties, Collective Soul had their share of mega-albums, each of their first two albums going platinum. Their sound was instantly recognizable, nobody else could belt out the radio friendly hooks as effortlessly, but still something strange happened. Maybe it was the rise of nu-metal, maybe it was the death of grunge, perhaps it was because they were so good, just so damn competent at what they did, the band never seemed to achieve the level of success they deserved. It was almost as if we took Ed Roland and his gift for riff and melody for granted. Just always assumed he'd be there to crank out another monster whenever we wanted it.
Well, oh waverider, I'm here to tell you that after a brief detour into different sounds, the mighty riffs are back. Collective Soul burst back onto the scene, with Afterwords, bigger and grander than ever, that hand reaching out once again demanding your attention. And you better give it them.
This is the Collective Soul we love. "New Vibration," starts off with a dynamite, classic Collective Soul stuttering riff. As simple as their compositions are, no one has ever been able to mimic that sound, that stop-and-start riffing married to a salt water taffy sticking to the roof of your mouth melody and a swooping, soaring chorus, escalating the song to the heavens. Rock doesn't have to be dark and heavy all the time, sometimes you just want something that moves you and actually makes you feel good. This is arena rock in its best terms, just ready for that arena to play in.
Then, lest we forget, Collective Soul launch right into their other side. You know which side I'm talking about, the home of some of the most beautiful, diaphanous melodies of the nineties, like "December," and "The World I Know." Afterwords is chock full of worthy ascenders to that lofty throne. "I Can't Give You," hints at the subtle beauty of "The World I Know," while "Bearing Witness," is a love song of uncommon beauty. "Good Morning After All," has an easy John Lennon-Beatles-esque quality. Then, just when you thought Ed Roland must have used up all his tricks, "Georgia Girl," leaks out of the stereo, delicate and gentle with its acoustic guitar and piano intro. Hands down, this must be the most beautiful melody to ever come from Roland's creative mind, a perfect composition to take full advantage of those fragile notes.
Now don't go thinking that all this talk of melodies means the boys have gone soft. "Never Here Alone," rocks into its own quarry on a simple riff that could comfortably place it as the next track after "Shine," from their debut album. "Persuasion of You," is the most aggressive track here, downtuned and distorted, Will Turpin's bass getting the chance to let loose around the tight confines of the riff, soaring through up-and-down neck runs. "Hollywood," a can't-miss single, hints at the later Cars song, "Magic," in its tone and light-hearted feel while "All That I Know," is a jaunty, bouncing feel good number guaranteed to keep you bopping along, humming all the way to the beach this summer. This is pop/rock at its best.
Special note needs to made to "I Don't Need Anymore Friends," Joel Kosche taking over lead vocal and songwriting duties without any disruption of the natural flow. In fact, it's a testament to the tremendously tight band and the perfect production that the signature Collective Soul sound, layered backing vocals, soaring choruses, melodic riffs, is so distinct and pervasive through out the entire disc. This is a band playing at a deep level of confidence. Maturation of songwriting aside, to use their own song title, the boys have really gelled, forgoing the experimentation of past albums and settling into their first love, straight up, infectious rock and roll.
The music industry has changed drastically since Collective Soul first released "Shine," some fourteen-odd years ago, but some things never go out of style, such as great songwriting, playing and musicianship. And for that, we can all be grateful. Collective Soul are back and they've brought the riffs and melodies with them. Now that's the world I know.