Creatively Boundless

Third Eye Blind’s Ursa Major- Brendan Agnew

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. Third eye Blind

Above: Third Eye Blind in the late 90’s

The Bronx – Brendan Agnew
March 27, 2009, 5:38 am
Filed under: Discoveries | Tags: ,

Alright, so this is the first post ( in a sense) for creatively boundless. Like most of what i’ll be doing, this post is geared towards rock and alternative music listeners, although i may write about hip hop from time to time, since I have a lot of interest in new rap music as well. My articles are most likely going to be either album reviews, concert reviews, some form of rant about rock n’ roll, or me gushing for days about a band I find to be BA. Today’s entry falls into the last category.

Los Angeles has been known to generate many a punk rock group. While New York and D.C. had their own respective hardcore punk scenes in the 1980’s, L.A. generated the greater amount of bands that defined the hardcore punk genre. Groups like Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, X, and the Germs put a new, more agressive, and at times, more creative, spin on the punk rock they grew up on. They made efforts to redefine both live and recorded music, but were always in your face about it, and playing passionately with amplifiers turned up to 11.

In some ways, Los Angeles band the Bronx are the same kind of band. They have all the ingredients of the perfect SoCal punk group. The singer sounds as if he starts each morning eating nails and shattered glass washed down with molten magma. He spends most of the time yelling in a gritty and completely unrestrained voice, reminiscent of Motorhead’s Lemmy Killmister or Circle Jerk’s Keith Morris.  While his voice is obviously flawed, he screams with conviction,  and this kind of passion and fury is what makes a legendary punk rock frontman. There are two guitarists in the Bronx, but many times you wouldn’t know this hearing them. Both guitars are usually playing the same riff, but this makes the sound all the more powerful. This works because their riffs are consistently original, ranging from hectic stacatto guitar attacks (see their song “Knifeman”) fist pumping hooks that recall Black Flag’s Greg Ginn ( see the intense ” They Will Kill Us All” and “Shitty Future”), and occassionally classic rock jams a la AC/DC’s angus young (the swaggery anthem “White Guilt”).  Their rhythm section is just as boisterous and aggressive as you’d expect of a band such as the Bronx and then some. The bass usually just adds more low end to the thundering guitar riffs, although the bass often comes to the forefront, adding exciting fills while keeping the upbeat tempo, in true punk form. The drums are cymbal-heavy and louder than holy hell, which is definitely a necessity, and also adds original and fire to the already intense rhythms of the Bronx’s songs. He plays like Keith Moon if he were drumming behind Keith Morris.

The sum of these parts is what makes the Bronx stand out among dozens of new punk rock  bands. While most groups ( and fans, for that matter) in modern hardcore punk are happy with punk by numbers that sounds exactly like the bands that came before it, the Bronx are refreshingly original. Leave it up to a band from Los Angeles’s D.I.Y. punk scene to rekindle the fire of the genre. The Bronx are abrasive yet catchy, gritty and still witty,  profound and profane, the perfect mixture of street and smart.

Long story short, they can scream profanity with more conviction and songwriting ability than half of the bands out there today.

For starters, check out their homepage Not only can you find most of their tunes there, but you can also check out their tour stories, which are hilarious as well as more BA than most road tales you’ll hear from any modern band.

Also, check out their videos, which are equally as creative as their music.

That one’s a link to the video for White Guilt, a song with a sort of classic rock anthemic feel. Also, it’s about a coke addled prostitute, but still comes across as a clever song that isn’t too grossly direct. Overall, an incredible song to say the least.

That links to a Bronx song called History’s Stranglers. It has sort of a Motorhead feel to it. The lyrics seem to be from the perspective of a murderer, bent on revenge.  It’s perfectly sleazy and cocky, basically if Hannibal lecter wrote a BA rock number, this would, without a doubt, be that song.

False Alarm is a song from the Bronx’s debut. It’s a great hardcore punk style song with a stomping beat. It’s aggressively rock and roll but still catchy enough to get stuck on your head with it’s guitar riffage. The video is basically the band edited into a bunch of old horror films, which is somehow perfect for the music, and seems sort of like something the Misfits would do. Y’know, back when they were good.

P.S. the bronx have been known to perform as Mariachi El Bronx. IN that case, they dress up in matching outfits and play traditional style mexican mariachi numbers that they’ve written. Yeah. You heard right.

The Binks, signing out for now.