For a band to have exerted such a profound measure of influence over a generation of new artists with just one album is an incredibly impressive feat, and Acceptance fit the bill for such a description. Despite what might seem like a largely uneventful career, given their release of only one studio album, Phantoms, many other pop rock bands have cited Acceptance’s lone album as an influence, including Lower Than Atlantis, All Time Low and A Day To Remember, amongst others. Colliding By Design is the Seattle pop rock group’s sophomore album and also happens to be a comeback album, with Acceptance announcing their breakup in 2006, just over a year following the release of their debut studio effort. The reason for the split was largely attributed to lead singer Jason Vena’s desire to lead the life of “the common man”, according to guitarist Christian McAlhaney. The other members of the band, however, clearly did not share the same humble ambitions, and instead pursued various musical projects as a group and on their own. It was in 2010, however, that the appearance of Vena on Vessels’ song, The Healing, suggested that a return from the singer into the pop rock limelight may be around the corner, which was reinforced following his appearance on All Time Low’s 2012 album, Don’t Panic. Now, well-over a decade since the release of their one and only album, Acceptance are making a long-overdue return to the world of pop rock. Of course, there is reason for apprehension, as comeback records so commonly fall short of the standards set by a band’s previous material, leading to the disappointment of fans and critics alike. Moreover, with a band like Acceptance, who only had a small taste of experience as recording artists in the first place, Colliding By Design could so easily highlight a need for the group to tighten up and focus their sound more. Unfortunately, the band’s return after 12 years of studio silence does suffer from these ills, but the most prominent issue with this album is how disappointingly rudimentary it is, with Acceptance sounding like just another pop rock band who were influenced by Acceptance, rather than Acceptance themselves.
The album’s opening track, Diagram of a Simple Man, establishes many of the recurring musical themes that appear across this record. The breezy production on Colliding By Design, for instance, is conveyed from the very first track, with the echoey guitars sounding as if they were mixed with the vision of this song being an epic arena rock song. As a result of the production value, Acceptance retain more of an indie rock orientation than what fans might be expecting. Of course, Diagram of a Simple Man nevertheless displays the songwriting of a pop rock song, to a borderline rudimentary extent, but the slightly appraised production technique lends itself to a more contemporary sound. The result, unfortunately, is that Acceptance lack a definitive musical identity of their own on Colliding By Design, rather this album feels like an attempt to recontextualise the band’s sound into the modern musical climate, leading to them retaining little that distinguishes themselves from many other artists who work with a similar blueprint and who have emerged since the release of Phantoms. In fact, Acceptance seem to be channelling influences from the likes of OneRepublic and Coldplay’s mid-career output so much that listeners new to the band may find it a surprise that this is a band who formed in the late 90s. This problem is only worsened by the fact that practically every song on Colliding By Design stays so true to the same formula that there is little variety on the record, with most of the songs sounding incredibly similar. The result is an album that leaves even less of an impression on the listener in retrospect, with many of the tracks on here being hard to discern from one another, given how similar most of them are in both approach and execution. It should also be said that, whilst Vega has never sung with the most unique voice, this is even more prominent on this new album, potentially as a result of all the new bands who were inspired by Acceptance and have gained a foothold in the industry since the group’s breakup. What’s more, the lyrics he brings to the table on this album are so mundane and often incredibly similar across the entire tracklisting that the issue of many songs lacking individual qualities that distinguish them from other tracks on here is exacerbated further by this. Ultimately, the salient problem with Acceptance on Colliding By Design is that the band make a limited case for their comeback, with this album being sparse in terms of scope, individuality and personality.
Whilst Colliding By Design presents little in the way of unique or particularly memorable material, that’s not to say that any of these songs are particularly bad at their core, plus there’s the odd flourish here and there that makes for some noticeable moments. For instance, Garrett Lunceford provides some nice keyboard lines on a handful of these tracks, and generally uses the instrument in a way that few other pop rock bands do, making for at least some moments that maintain a more discernible flavour to them. As for the album’s general sound, there is nothing really technically wrong here. The production is fine for the most part, and arguably complements the band’s vision at times with its airy quality, and the individual members’ performances are all perfectly adequate, with little here that would upset the average pop rock fan. Ultimately, however, this is wherein the main problem of the record lies, in that it’s so incredibly safe and rudimentary as to not set Acceptance apart from other pop rock bands in the current musical climate.
Colliding By Design unfortunately bears much of the baggage that often comes with comeback albums. Typically, the best or most pivotal comeback albums are the ones that mark some significant alteration to an artist and their sound as to justify and explain why a return into the musical world was needed. However, on their second album, Acceptance simply adhere to the same principles that most other pop rock bands follow, whilst doing little to nothing to advance this sound or play with it in any kind of interesting or memorable way. For the most part, these songs are perfectly passable, and occasionally display a good idea or two, but there is never quite enough shown that distinguishes Colliding By Design as a noteworthy release in pop rock in 2017.
The Vinyl Verdict: 5.5/10