Hey, remember the late ’90s? When the Internet bubble was at its biggest, our biggest political worry was who Bill Clinton had been keeping under his desk in the Oval Office, and Creed was all over the radio? Don’t you feel nostalgic for those days? Don’t you, uh, miss Creed?
Creed is sure hoping you do.
Reunited with its Eddie Vedder-dissing original bassist and its Vedder-imitating lead singer, the band that urinated on grunge’s grave with songs like “Higher” and “With Arms Wide Open” is back with its first album of new material in eight years. Eight years, people! That’s nearly a decade! Do you know how much can happen in eight years?
Quite a lot, actually. While Creed was working on 2001’s Weathered, the World Trade Center still stood, American air travel still had a little bit of romance, and the George W. Bush presidency was still funny. Just a few years later, all that had changed — and Scott Stapp was falling down on stages, bumming rides to crappy diners in search of groupie tail, and pandering to the fundies. By 2004, the band had split, with Stapp embarking on a quickly forgotten solo career and the rest of the band hooking up with singer Myles Kennedy to form Alter Bridge.
Alter Bridge’s sales haven’t been spectacular, but neither has the band been dogged by the sort of sad/hilarious controversies that Stapp has attracted; all things being equal, you’d think the members of the band would be happy drawing fair-to-middling sales in exchange for not having to deal with the paranoid delusions of a bellowing nudnik. But you’d be wrong: apparently, someone decided to wave a pile of cash around, and now we’ve got a full-fledged Creed reunion on our hands — tour, album, and all.
As I’ve said repeatedly on my Twitter feed over the last few days, during my desperate attempts to summon the strength to experience this album: Son of a bitch.
Anyone dreading a repeat of “With Arms Wide Open” should be able to take a few moments of limited pleasure away from Full Circle‘s first four tracks; to its credit, Creed kicks things off loud and fast, bursting out of the gate with a quadruple blast of high-volume self-pity in “Overcome,” “Bread of Shame,” “A Thousand Faces,” and “Suddenly.” Sure, it’s more of the same from the band — sludgy riffs, low tunings, lyrics about scars, and plenty of self-serious howling from Stapp — but plenty of other crappy bands would have gone straight to the power ballad, and Creed actually bothers to reaffirm its Pearl Jam Lite bona fides before slowing things down for the obvious singles, “Rain” and “Away in Silence.” (The latter sounds like Stapp’s mea culpa to his fans and bandmates, with lines like “Don’t walk away in silence / I’m not the man I used to be.” Which is nice, although it ignores the fact that most of us weren’t going anywhere, but were instead hoping it would be Stapp walking away in silence.)
The album is all very Creed-like, which is to say it sounds like the work of an especially proficient and creative Pearl Jam cover band after a monthlong Ten marathon, a few cases of Natural Light, and the awful, sub-Jovi lyrical contributions of a loaf-brained singer who thinks there’s something meaningful in lines like “My heart is tattooed on my sleeve…It only hurts to breathe.” After eight years, I’d started to feel a little bad for thinking the old “Even Jesus hates Creed” joke was still funny, but Full Circle provided an instant cure for my guilt.
Will you like Full Circle if you’re a Creed fan? I guess so, probably, although I can’t pretend to understand how your brain works. I mean, it sounds like old Creed, with a little extra sonic expanse wedged between the layers of guitars, and the band does try a few different things, most notably by adding some acoustic guitars to the mix. This doesn’t always produce the intended effect — the intro to “On My Sleeve” sounds like something White Lion might have come up with between takes in 1988 — but the gently swaggering groove that underpins the title track suggests Creed might actually manage to be interesting someday. It isn’t very likely, what with Stapp slobbering all over everything, but you never know. As he so solemnly intones during “Rain,” “With every tomorrow comes another life.” Yeah, man.