Written By: Darwin Green
Label: Megaforce/RED – Rating:
For any fan, six years is a long time to wait for any band’s album.
“Ursa Major” lays bare Stephan Jenkins’ private and public struggles with fame, women, and the isolation brought on by excess. It includes unrequited love from lesbians, JD Salinger, suicide, and bumps of cocaine. One can tell by listening that Jenkins has been through a lot since the last album and did some major soul-searching in the six years between albums. This reviewer read that writer’s block contributed to the delay in making this album, and judging from the content it most likely worked out for the better that it took so long.
The first half of the album explodes right off the bat, perhaps causing an expectation that the whole album will rock out like their first eponymous album. This album creates a different atmosphere than the expected. It has a toned-down, introspective quality that trades in distortion and loud guitars for quieter, more acoustic and vocal based compositions. It’s as though after recording two or three songs in their familiar style they decided that Jenkins’ lyrics sounded better and came through more clearly than underneath the wailing grunge rock of their past. And perhaps they’re right. Each song gives a piece of Jenkins’ life as though reading it in a book, with every page carrying a different story.
Most songs do still carry the familiar build-up of energy with more twists than a strand of DNA. A great example of this is “Water Landing.” One can interpret “Water Landing” on two or three different levels and is replete with double entendres that would make Dr. Ruth blush, but when the song comes to the actual water landing part of the song, it gets intense, climaxing with pounding emotion. Part of the double chorus reads, “Let me come inside.” After listening to the song about a plane crashing on water, one starts to wonder if “water landing” means an actual plane crashing into water or if this reviewer shares a particularly dirty mind with Jenkins. Looking at past songs like “Non Dairy Creamer,” one really starts to wonder. Either way, “Water Landing,” as well as the others on the album, is an amazing song even if taken on a literal level, though perhaps Jenkins learned NLP along the way from Ross Jeffries and thus influences women around the world to feel something other than just mere sympathy for the singer.
In any case, Third Eye Blind returns with rewards for the listener after an extended absence. Hopefully they keep us rewarded like this, and more often.