After delving a bit too deeply into glam on 2004's Youth, their first foray into indie recordings, Collective Soul straightens things out on its 2007 follow-up, Afterwords. Contrary to the implication of the title of "New Vibration" -- the hard-hitting opener on this, their seventh album -- Afterwords brings the band close to how they sounded about a decade before, when they were riding the peak of their popularity and when modern rock bands could still be heard on the radio because there was modern mainstream rock radio. If this kind of radio still existed in 2007, Collective Soul could still have hits, at least with an album like Afterwords that unapologetically plays to their core strengths of hooky, sturdy songs, delivered unpretentiously but grandly, as if they were designed to fill an arena. There may be no one song as grabbing as "Gel" or gently transcendent as "Shine" -- or even anthemic as that power ballad classic "The World I Know" -- but the songs are big and tuneful, crying out for the appealingly glossy production they're given. Collective Soul needs that kind of huge, clean production -- the kind of recording where the drums sound cavernous, the guitars are pushed to the front along with the voice, and the slight electronic flourishes, such as the occasional drum loop, are buried and used as texture -- because they're at heart a mainstream band even if they're now on an independent label. The fact that they're now on an independent is more a reflection of the nature of the music business than the music, because Afterwords is the kind of good, solid mainstream pop/rock that isn't heard much in 2007 and anybody missing that sound should seek this out, especially fans who weren't quite thrilled with its glammier predecessor. Unlike Youth, Afterwords is a Collective Soul album for those who like Collective Soul.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine