’s first new album in eight years, Full Circle
, is not a radical departure from the records that made them superstars in the late ‘90s. Their fans will certainly be happy about that, but for those who absolutely detested this post-grunge
quartet, Full Circle
just offers another opportunity to mock Creed’s overly sincere mid-tempo rock. Ultimately, this comeback album reminds you why these guys were able to win over so many listeners back in their heyday, but it’s still a leaden, generic affair.
A Once-Huge Band Trying to Regain Their Title
Creed, led by frontman Scott Stapp, produced a string of radio hits near the end of the 20th century that followed a familiar formula. Borrowing the gravitas of Pearl Jam
and their lead singer Eddie Vedder, Stapp and his cohorts delivered overly emotive hard rock that tried to have a spiritual or uplifting quality to it. On “With Arms Wide Open” and “My Sacrifice,” Stapp groaned his emphatic lyrics in such a way that it was clear that he really, really meant what he was singing. When the group disbanded in 2004, they left behind a legacy of largely humorless hits that made them the laughingstock of hipper rock fans. Even worse, after the group’s breakup, bands like Nickelback
stepped in to usurp Creed’s throne, getting rich by creating similarly unambiguous hard rock that celebrated regular folks and their feelings. So when Creed announced their reunion in 2008, observers were to curious to see how the band would respond to these newer acts that had stolen their place in the post-grunge pantheon. Unfortunately, Full Circle
argues that they just wanted to keep making the same old Creed songs we already know.
To be fair, Full Circle isn’t a note-for-note rewrite of earlier Creed material. The quartet don’t include a “With Arms Wide Open”-style ballad on the record, focusing on crunchier songs that, if anything, suggests that the guys have been influenced by Nickelback’s more muscular approach. As a result, Full Circle is probably the group’s most assertive record, although that hardly means that Creed are suddenly rocking with real flair or passion. Rather, on tracks like “Overcome,” the guitars get a touch more aggressive and the drums pound a little more forcefully, but the overall middle-of-the-road sonic approach remains. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with how Creed write songs – their tunes have pungent hooks that are fairly accessible. But the problem with Full Circle is that so many of its tracks feel like things you’ve already heard from this band or their competitors.
A Frontman Who's Really a Punching Bag
Probably no frontman of the modern rock era is more ridiculed than Stapp. With his beefcake looks, pseudo-poetic lyrics and moaning vocals, he has always come across as a bit of a self-serious lunkhead who thinks he’s saving the world through his music. But those qualities are part of the reason Creed fans love him, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that those irritating aspects of his demeanor are all over Full Circle. Even on solid songs like “Suddenly,” Stapp is such a blowhard that he weighs down the material’s better moments. For a guy who’s weathered substance abuse, the loss of his band and a failed solo career, you’d think that Stapp might have some interesting older-but-wiser insights to offer on Full Circle. But instead he just mouths platitudes that are deeply dull, particularly on the introspective closer, “The Song You Sing,” which is about the limits of music’s transformative power to bring meaning to a person’s life. On that song, Stapp expresses the hope that his music can inspire people, and there’s no question that he means it. But the problem with Full Circle is that inspiration is in very short supply.
'Full Circle' – Best Tracks