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The week Creed released their fourth album, Weathered, lead vocalist Scott Stapp mentioned in an interview that they didn't really care about the widespread critical disdain for his group, since Led Zeppelin wasn't appreciated either -- not until they released their fourth album in 1971, that is. Stapp's assessment is a little off; Zeppelin never really enjoyed good reviews by most of the rock-crit establishment -- at least until 1988 when Zep-mania gripped the nation and even prompted Rolling Stone to put Robert Plant on the cover -- but his sentiment is right on target since he's saying Creed isn't a band for the critics, they simply do what they do and the proof that they're right is in the millions of fans. Well, Creed certainly isn't a critic's band, but not because critics hate heavy rock -- grunge sorta blew that bugaboo out of the water when it became mandatory to take anybody with heavy guitars seriously -- but because Creed simply works very earnestly within a tradition without ever expanding it, without ever adding humor or even cracking a smile. R.E.M. and U2 may have had the weight of the world on their shoulders during the first Bush era, but they lightened up occasionally. Creed never does. They are a very serious band, realizing that the world is very serious, so music is a serious business, a way of expressing their faith, passion, yearning, and love -- all things that are quite serious so they should be treated seriously. Their hearts are in the right place -- let it never be said that they're only in this for the money or the fame; they even advertise Stapp's With Arms Wide Open Foundation charity in the liner notes -- but the earnestness in their approach is magnified by their resolutely unimaginative neo-grunge. Try as they may -- and they do, bringing in the Tallahasee Boys' Choir for "Don't' Stop Dancing," incorporating a Cherokee Indian prayer on "Who's Got My Back," sprinkling the album with some keyboards, and stretching out to near-epic lengths occasionally -- they don't break from that template, and to all but the hardcore, this is simply another Creed record, one that has the same faults or virtues, depending on your viewpoint. And that's why Creed isn't Led Zeppelin, even though both were slagged by critics, say what you may, Zeppelin changed on each of those first four records, where Creed has stayed the same. (This does get the honorary Fred Durst's Chocolate Starfish award for worst album cover of the year, however.)

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