Ursa Major

Third Eye Blind

Mega Collider, 2009


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Since every other late ‘90s band decided to regroup and put out an album between 2008 and 2010, Third Eye Blind wasn’t about to be left behind. So six years after Out Of The Vein came Ursa Major. As expected, it’s a more mature, sophisticated album than previous efforts, with only a few of the flourishes – both good and bad – that characterized 3EB’s first two albums.

No, there’s nothing as naggingly catchy as “Semi-Charmed Life” or “Never Let You Go,” as the sweet bouncy hit single part of the band has been subsumed (fitting, given their ages). But neither are there hidden drug and sex references among the sweet-sounding music, one of the more annoying facets of the band and something that Stephan Jenkins used to smirk about (hence Jason Warburg’s criticism of the debut).

Jenkins has grown up, peppering his lyrics now with references to relationships good and bad, a yearning for something more out of life and government and a look back at how things used to be. There’s nothing truly deep or thought-provoking; rather, Jenkins echoes sentiments that most of us feel at some time or another in our 30s and early 40s, and for the first time it feels like he’s being honest.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Granted, the debut was a pretty darn good mainstream rock album, and even if “Life” does no more now than transport you back to the rollerblading arena and Lisa Frank posters of 1997, songs like “Losing A Whole Year,” “Jumper” and “How’s It Going To Be” remain highlights of the post-alt-rock movement. Regrettably, Ursa Major mostly plays it safe, going very heavy on the ballads and midtempo numbers, which is the direction these guys needed to go but one they just can’t turn into anything truly exciting or vital.

The first two tracks are misleading. “Can You Take Me” is a very catchy pop-rocker, proof that Jenkins can still write these things, and of all the songs here it’s the one that will stick with you. “Don’t Believe A Word” is loud and punkish in spirit, calling out the pro-war government and “King George” (although this was in 2009, so who knows how old the song is?), but the song itself is awkward and never quite lands.

“About To Break” is pretty good, with Jenkins finding solidarity among the marginalized and overworked in society, while the solitary Russian actor consumed with a depressing past and his thoughts on an empty stage in “Molotov’s Private Opera” shows depth that I didn’t know this band was capable of. “Every moment of your life is a chance to get it right,” Jenkins sings, which seems like pop psychology but hints at how our every decision, even small ones, makes some impact and requires some level of thought.

If more moments were like “Molotov’s Private Opera” and “Can You Take Me,” this would have been a winning return to form, but the bulk of this disc is serious, mature, mundane adult acoustic pop-rock that blends together in a warm beige blanket. That may hold an appeal for those who love Sensitive White Guys With Acoustic Guitars and despised the band and “Semi-Charmed Life,” but it’s kind of a letdown for everyone else.

Rating: C-

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