CD review: Third Eye Blind releases Ursa Major

By Bobby Mullen, News Correspondent

Released six years after its last album, Third Eye Blind’s Ursa Major was the band’s most highly anticipated album in its 12-year history. Since being dropped from its label, Warner, in 2004, the band has not put out any new material save for Red Star, an Internet-only EP released last year. Their last CD, 2003’s weak-selling Out of the Vein, was their last hard copy release.
A quick listen of Ursa Major brings the group stylistically back to its roots with catchy electric and acoustic hooks and simple rhythms. However, a deeper listen into frontman Stephan Jenkins’ lyrics shows the singer/guitarist taking on a multitude of things with which he has issues and putting them in song. Before the album’s release, Jenkins said it was going to be ‘very political,’ and he did not fail to deliver on this promise.
The album opens with a bang:’ The electric ‘Can You Take Me’ is a loud and fast love song with political undertones, with Jenkins asking his counterpart to ‘start a riot.’ Another notable love song is the piano-driven ‘One in Ten.’
The second track, ‘Don’t Believe a Word,’ is also a fast-paced song with much lyrical depth, which also happened to be the first single off the album. Jenkins starts with an attack on the current artists that dominate hip-hop, asking:’ ‘Rap stars brag about shooting each other? Whatever happened to, ‘brother, brother’?’ Later in the song, he shifts his focus to the political, singing, ‘I can’t find myself I can’t change the station, in this corporate, sell-out, hillbilly nation.’ ‘Don’t Believe a Word’ has a catchy hook and some excellent drumming by Brad Hargreaves, probably his best work on the album.
Other songs on the album with political undertones include ‘About to Break,’ which tackles American prejudices and issues such as teen pregnancy.
The second single from Ursa Major, ‘Bonfire,’ shows a stylistic change for the band that is welcome and refreshing. Taking the slightest of reggae influences, ‘Bonfire’ has a catchy riff and is a fun sing-along. If there was a song destined to become the band’s next ‘Semi-Charmed Life,’ in terms of popularity, ‘Bonfire’ would be it. Another song in this vein is ‘Summer Town.’ This catchy tune isn’t as lyrically deep as the rest of the album, but it is a fun song.
Jenkins also uses this album to do some self-reflection. ‘Dao of St. Paul’ is highly introspective, with Jenkins questioning all he has done in his life, specifically the past three years. The song features excellent guitar work by lead guitarist Tony Fredianelli, including a scorching solo in the midst of Jenkins’ smooth acoustic rhythm.
In ‘Monotov’s Private Opera,’ another piano-heavy song, Jenkins sings ‘Now I’m stuck inside a poem, And then I’m walkin’ by myself in the dark, all alone.’ These self-questioning songs are a good indicator of where Jenkins’ head was during the band’s hiatus. Jenkins took time off to learn about who he was, act, and get through some tough relationships. But he has now made a strong comeback.
While it’s not as fresh as Third Eye Blind’s eponymous debut and follow-up, Blue, Ursa Major packs a punch with lyrical depth, powerful guitar and an overall quality of sound that is impressive for a band coming off such a long hiatus.

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