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It May Be Obvious: But With the Exception of “Youth,” “Blender,” “Dosage” and Much of “Disciplined Breakdown” Collective Soul Have Never Released a Bad Album

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: .

It might be obvious, but Collective Soul used to release really good music. For the most part though, this came to an end around March of 1995… after that, the band’s releases became scattered (at best). I can still remember listening to the local rock radio station’s yearly wrap-up in 1997 and hearing “Precious Declaration” proclaimed as the finest of the hundred or so songs on the list. It was a good song, and I remember when first hearing it how different it sounded, how it seemed so fresh; but then again I was fourteen. Without entirely diminishing the effect of the band allow me to put the overall impact of Collective Soul into perspective: when I was that age I clearly remember an afternoon helping with some things at my dad’s office and we were listening to one of those gimmick “500 Best Rock Songs of All-Time” type countdowns on the radio. One of the other people asked me who I thought would be “it” as it was getting towards the end of the list, around the top top or so. My response? Lenny Kravitz. My ears were young, what can I say?

In 1994, however, my friends and I had started to move away from the only classic rock station in town (which appears to have become just like every other mainstream rock station given Daughtry, Saliva and Stone Sour are on its current ‘Top 8′) and were branching out slightly. Weezer was becoming popular and I remember that in one of my friends’ stacks of CDs, under said Blue Album was Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid. As a grade schooler the cover seemed vulgar, but looking at it now, it’s actually one of the more interesting pieces of cover art that the decade may have produced.

That being said, it wasn’t until the band’s 1995 eponymous release that I began my appreciation for Collective Soul. At the time it seemed as though songs such as “Gel” were outrageous considering its contemporaries on the radio; all the while “The World I Know” acted to recapture whichever listeners were turned off by the band’s harder songs. It had an intangible quality that made it enjoyable to such a broad selection of fan, and by 1996 it helped lead the album to platinum status. Three times over. An act nearly unprecedented for a rock group in today’s musical landscape.

As with many albums in my youth I went backwards in the chain of release and I came to appreciate Hints… once I fell in love with Collective Soul. Unlike its successor Hints… was a friendlier album that helped me appreciate the band on a far greater level. Its “Pretty Donna” made sense on the “these guys are classier than me” level as it introduced two minutes of strings into the mix, something that would musically be revived only in bits and pieces (such as “The World I Know”) throughout the rest of the band’s career. And even now, when I hear “Shine” I’m OK with it. I don’t have regret or any such symptoms from putting so much stock into the band even though I was eventually let down; no matter how you look at it, it was a complete rock track.

On somewhat of a sidenote: while just recently listening to the album something absolutely fantastic came to mind when hearing the song “Wasting Time.” Sans the intro to the track it could have easily become just as “over-appreciated” as The Rembrandts‘ “I’ll Be There For You,” hand claps and all, while serving as the introduction for Friends. That being said it would have staged a wonderfully ironic act if used as such as it describes exactly what the show would become over the next decade: wasting time. “That’s all you’ll do if you’re waiting for me, wasting time, I don’t see what you think I see” (PS – Friends was horrible).

“Precious Declaration” was good, but the rest of Disciplined Breakdown was a little mediocre. Much of the album failed to ring with the same boldness of the band’s previous releases and in doing so the band made the turn towards the same horrible sound that every radio-friendly rock band boasted from about 2000 to 2001. We’re talking 3 Doors Down here. We’re talking Tantric. We’re talking Default. Yeah, Default. And if not actually having been Collective Soul, the last song I ever remotely liked by the band (2000’s “Why Part 2″) could have very well been any of the aforementioned. There was once a time when I considered bands that are considered ‘classic rock’ and what it must be like to have enjoyed the same band for some thirty years; figuring the possibility that Collective Soul may be a classic rock band come 2015. It was a decent thought at the time, but too bad it won’t pan out. At least we’ve still got “Gel.”