The album opens with “Better Now,” an anthemic and upbeat rocker. The inclusion of saxophones on this track is a departure for a band that has been quite content to be guitar-based. There’s no denying the energy this song produces. It had me swaying and dancing right away, and that’s a rarity, I assure you.
“There’s A Way” continues the anthem theme and underlines the youth and energy this recording embodies. Like most of this album, it is evidence of a band that is enjoying the creation of music a great deal, one that’s enjoying a rebirth.
“Home” springs to life with lyrics kin to Ed Roland’s strongest.
And lost entities
Government is loneliness
On this we agree
High are the angels
And low our decree
Love only burns
When fueled by belief”
I’ve come to interpret “Home” as a look at America, both an appreciation of its positive aspects and an acknowledgement of its weekness. I’m surely largely influenced by my own feelings on this, though, and would be interested in knowing Ed’s true intent for the song.
“How Do You Love” and “Him” form an interlude on romantic relationships. The former is a ballad that explores the barriers that can be held in relationships, the holding back of acceptance and intimacy. The latter looks at a betrayal and deception. They make for one of the strongest segments of the album, full of what seems to be deeply felt emotion.
“Feels Like (It Feels Alright)” is as positive and upbeat as the name would suggest. It’s the anthem I find has the most interesting lyrics, interestingly. “Feels like a new regime, all hail to the soul machine, Feels like the great escape, I love you baby but life can’t wait” and “Feels like a Sunday dress, stained with sin but always blessed,” may be simple, but I find they quite effectively flesh out a song clearly about having a good time.
“Perfect To Stay” and “Under Heaven’s Skies” are romantic mid-tempo songs filled with catchy lyrics and a great sense of popcraft that this band has mastered and used in their hits like “Run,” “Gel” and “Needs.”
“Counting The Days” was released as the album’s first single and has the superb hooks, guaranteed to be stuck in your head chorus and excellent rock instrumentation that made the band the creators of the most number one rock singles of the 90’s. It’s a typical Ed Roland search for freedom, as he’s said about some of his lyrics before, an “us against the world” song.
“General Attitude” is a rush of a tribute to change and new paths. As the last anthem of the album, it’s a great representation of the theme and feel of the entire work.
Youth closes with its strongest and most moving track, “Satellite.” It’s a touching tribute to parenthood, embracing the dual role of guardian and teacher with the metaphor of a satellite.
In 1994 I discovered Collective Soul and fell in love with their music. For most of the following decade the band was without a doubt my favourite. I found a tremendous amount of solace and inspiration in their albums, and each seemed to come at a time in my life when I needed exactly what it offered. The band’s consistant evolution and quality of output shaped me in more ways than I could express. It excites me very much to see them return after a few years on hiatus with an extremely enjoyable and energetic album that doesn’t fail in any way to meet my high expectations.