Filed under: Previews & Reviews | Tags: Don't Believe a Word, Semi Charmed Life, Third Eye Blind, Ursa Major
This particular post is dedicated to al those who long for their favorite forgotten poppy alt. rock bands of the late 90’s. The bands much of our generation heard a constant cycle of on the radio throughout their youth. Arguably the most memorable bands of this era have re-emerged: Third Eye Blind. Their newest release, Ursa Major is their first since 2003’s Out of the Vein, and offers drastic changes from their earlier style as well as a handful of songs that wouldn’t sound out of place on their self-titled debut. Overall, Ursa major is a solid effort from the group, and certainly a welcomed return.
In the late 90’s, Third Eye Blind saw a rapid rise from an underground sensations to chart-topping, Charlize Theron-dating, bonafide rock stars. This was mostly attributed to the driving singles from their first album, most notably the infectiously catchy ” Semi-Charmed Life”. The song not only had to appeal to fans of alternative rock, but somehow managed to simultaneously become a household name among fans of popular music. With infectious guitar riffs and thinly veiled obscene lyrics (most notably lines like “she comes ’round and she goes down on me’ and “doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break”) “Semi-Charmed Life” established Third Eye Blind’s place in alt rock history. Their debut was an incredibly youthful, melodic, and energetic record with clever lyrics and an incredibly diverse lineup of guitar riffage. Overall, it was an incredible debut, a solid alt rock record that grows on you with each listen.
Throughout the 90’s and early milennium, 3EB had a handful of other hit singles, ranging from the guitar-driven pop rocker “Never Let You Go” to the criminally underrated “Crystal Baller” off of Out of the Vein. However, in terms of success, none of the hits measured up to songs like “Semi-Charmed Life” or “jumper” from their first album. Gradually, Third Eye Blind nearly faded from memory.
However, that could all very well change with their new release Ursa Major. The album had been hyped in various mediums before it’s actually release, most notably through a series of videos on the band’s webpage chronicling the writing and recording of the album. After being postponed several times, the album finally dropped earlier this month.
However, many wondered if Third Eye Blind would try to appeal to the current alternative scene or their early fans more on their new record. The answer, interestingly enough, is both. The entire album has a much cleaner production than their previous albums, making it come across as a very poppy album. However, the style that many Third Eye Blind fans know and love is still present on Ursa Major.
The opening track, “Can You Take Me” is true to form for Third Eye Blind. It begins with a loud, driving chord progression, a catchy melody, and a generally anthemic feel to it. However, the next track and first single off of the album, “Don’t Believe a Word” is unlike anything the group has ever recorded. The track begins with guitar feedback, but kicks in with an explosive opening chord progression that almost echoes “Baba O’Riley”. From there, the song evolves ranges from fast paced electronic-infused pop rock during the verses and an almost classic rock feel during the verses and bridge. Once again, Third Eye Blind has made an astounding first single. The album’s next track “Bonfire” is a much more mellow number, beginning with acoustics, vocals, and what sounds like hand percussion. As the song progresses, it becomes sort of a melodic ballad. The song wouldn’t seem out of place on popular radio due to it’s clean, glossy production, which could alienate many fans of 3EB who lead more to alternative rock style, but it’s overall a solid song.
Ursa Major seems to be the most ballad-heavy 3EB record to date. Because of this, the album lacks the overall youthful energy of their debut, which was part of what made that particular album their most by fans. The energy of the album somewhat peaks within the first 3 tracks, with the exception of the almost irritatingly poppy “Summer Town”. Not to suggest that many of the following songs aren’t good. “One in Ten” is a great acoustic number, with spot on vocal harmonies and some interesting instrumentation (i.e. a horn section). “Why Can’t You Be” which plays out like a dialogue between a couple that’s grown tired of one another, is 3EB’s signature mix of balladry and tongue in cheek humor. (yes, he does say “sometimes a blowjob’s not enough, you heard correctly.) “Dao of St. Paul” picks up the pace towards the end of the album, but only slightly.
The Verdict? Ursa Major, while filled with beautifuly written slower songs, sort of loses it’s energy very early in the album. Fans looking for the youthful exuberance of songs like “Graduate”, “Crystal Baller” or “London” will probably be initially disappointed. Still, over time, the songs do begin to grow on you, although my musical A.D.D. made it difficult to sit through many songs all the way through. Overall, Third Eye Blind have made a good comeback album that doesn’t quite stack up to their incredible debut.
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