I guess I could call Collective Soul something of a guilty pleasure - straight-ahead pop, catchy hooks, singable choruses, simple melodies, everything that a music-snob like me is supposed to hate. But I'll admit it. I like a well-done pop tune too, and CS has a supply of 'em seemingly as inexhaustible as Ben Folds's bag of witty one-liners. Sometimes it's nothing more than two-line verses and a quick chorus repeated a couple times, as on "Tremble For My Beloved." Yet, in the middle of it all they've got a great knack for a melody and they can crank up an addictive beat that's hard to let go. And hey, at least the songs aren't as utterly simplistic and tossed-off as Weezer's (which I also listen to).
Dosage, although sporting the weirdest of all their mediocre album covers, was Collective Soul's most accomplished recording at the time. (Haven't heard Blender, so I can't compare.) Underneath the usual ear-candy songcraft there are more keyboards, better production/mixing and more electronic touches than ever before. "Tremble" rides on waves of wah-wah guitars. "Slow" builds a wall of sound big enough to fill your whole listening space. "Crown" slides through to the disc's finish (almost) in a low-key haze of dreamy ambience. Aha, and there's an extra treat - the hidden "She Said" at the end, which floats on a bed of gorgeous strings and another of those excellent choruses. It's an absolute gem.
They're essentially nothing more than a catchy rock band, but Collective Soul has a compelling energy and a talent for strong songs that should keep them going for a while. Those who aren't looking for anything more should be well satisfied.