[CD Review] Third Eye Blind, 'Ursa Major' (Mega Collider)

Though they hail from San Francisco, Third Eye Blind have found success by merging the Northern and Southern California aesthetics. They’ve managed to extract the fun, relaxed elements of LA culture (minus the douchebaggery) and combine them with the more substantive, craft-focused elements of SF culture (minus the pretentiousness).

The group’s best-selling but critically underrated eponymous 1997 debut featured breezy, enduring tracks that were deceptively simple and deliriously tuneful, and some of that spirit has been recaptured on the group’s fourth album, Ursa Major. Album highlight “About to Break” recalls the soaring fun (and emotional weariness) of their first disc, climaxing in a series of delightful guitar squeals. There are some bizarre lyrical choices here—“Sometimes a blowjob’s not enough,” lead singer Stephan Jenkins informs us (for some reason) on “Why Can’t You Be”—but for the most part, the songs are heartfelt and honest-feeling. The biggest problems here are the hooks, which aren’t as nearly as mesmerizing as those peppering the band’s first two outings. Tracks such as “Monotov’s Private Opera” and “Dao of St. Paul” are nearly comatose. Still, writing these guys off would be a mistake; one suspects they’ve got another California-bridging album or two left in them.

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