There’s a lot of talk these days, especially after the World Cup, about the power of “the group.” Brazil fell apart after Neymar’s injury. Argentina waited in vain for Messi to dazzle and ended up in tears. Germany won the cup without the benefit of any stars that displayed jaw-dropping ball-handling skills. It won because it was the best at playing as a team.
In music, the power of the group is also of critical importance. Especially in the world of rock music, where just as in the time of the cavemen, people exist in packs. A band can’t reach the heights without a highly developed consciousness as a unit. Therefore, the average lifespan of a band is about 10 years. After 10 years, the unit is no longer very solid, and there’s no point anymore.
In Israeli music at the moment, group power is not a key factor, because there are no groups. The Israeli band is an endangered species; the mainstream Israeli band is dying, if not dead. In the indie world, though, there are still some bands that preserve the group ethic, and one of the most prominent is The Collective, which has just put out its second album, “Panagea” (the first album by an Israeli band that made me resort to Wikipedia to understand the meaning of its title, and even then, I’m not quite sure how to pronounce it).
The very name “The Collective” attests to its group sentiment. And so does the page of credits in the booklet that comes with the new album. Instead of the usual listing of each member’s name followed by the instruments he plays, there is just a single line – “Many instruments and voices were recorded.” Written evidence isn’t really needed. It’s enough just to see the band. While two members, Idan Rabinovitz and Roy Rik, function as soloists, they don’t consume more oxygen or draw more focus than the other members. The same goes for guitarist Yossi Mizrahi, who has gained fame lately for non-musical reasons. The Collective is a group. A solid, cohesive, united group. All for one and one for all.
This determined cohesiveness has made The Collective one of the most popular bands on the indie scene here, headliners who can be trusted to deliver at our indie music festivals. Their shows are tremendously energetic and impassioned, even ecstatic. You can see, hear and feel the power of the group and its effect on the audience. Or on most of it, anyway.
I find myself in the minority. What strikes me the most at the band’s shows, and on its new album, is actually the group’s weakness. To be more precise: the weakness of the strong group. This weakness comes from its absolute dependence on the force of its power for the content it creates. With The Collective, the songs I’m hearing just aren’t good enough. They lack a stable backbone. Its two singers aren’t good enough. Their voices are thin and bland. But despite these drawbacks, the wagon speeds ahead. Because the group is strong. So what emerges is a big and troublesome gap between the weak elements (the songs, the singing) and the strong elements (energy, volume, the joy of togetherness).
Unlike in its shows, on the new album The Collective isn’t constantly striving for ecstasy, so this gap is felt less than with the live version of the band. But it’s still too big. The constant passion of The Collective, which in its shows is projected onto the audience and on the points of connection between the band members, is directed in the album version to the playing and the arrangements, which tend to be packed with information and create intentions. The drummer, for instance, is more likely to unleash an intensive barrage than to drum in the usual manner. This can be impressive, but often the flood of such ideas turns out to be greater than the song itself – at least to someone who isn’t so fond of the aesthetics of the amorphous song that’s typical of the indie world in general and The Collective in particular.
The overload that often characterizes The Collective (“Many instruments and voices were recorded”) calms down a bit in the home stretch of the album. The last songs, especially the final song, “Lock it,” float beautifully without being overly weighty. It’s too little, too late, but at least the “weakness of the strong group” syndrome fades away at these moments, mainly because, fortunately, the group becomes less strong here.