« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Album review: Third Eye Blind's 'Ursa Major'

Third_eye_blind_240_ This San Francisco alt-rock outfit hasn't released a new studio album since 2003, back when it was still riding on the fumes of "Semi-Charmed Life," its late-'90s radio smash. But just as Weezer's cult classic "Pinkerton" eventually came to influence a generation of young emo bands, Third Eye Blind's music has over the intervening years become an unexpected touchstone for groups like Panic! at the Disco and Boys Like Girls -- acts that didn't even exist the last time Third Eye Blind was an aboveground concern.

Perhaps it's that after-the-fact renown that's kept frontman Stephan Jenkins in fighting form, for rather than seeming like an aging has-been on "Ursa Major," Jenkins instead comes on like he never left the scene. In fact, with its pulsating rhythms and crisp guitar fuzz, the new record actually does a better job of extending the band's early work than did its lukewarm previous effort, "Out of the Vein."

The Third Eye Blind sound is still appealingly idiosyncratic: Though he's a fine melodist, Jenkins often sings with the percussive attack of a rapper, as in "Don't Believe a Word," where he takes part (invited or not) in the ongoing conversation regarding hip-hop's sociocultural obligation: "Rap stars brag about shooting each other / Whatever happened to, 'Brother, brother'?" he sings, invoking Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On."

And though founding guitarist Kevin Cadogan left the group following 1999's "Blue," Jenkins here expertly re-creates the hard-edged jangle that always distinguished Third Eye Blind from its blander radio-rock peers, such as Train and Matchbox Twenty.

Will "Ursa Major" catch on commercially in the new digital age? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, expect its charms to echo for a while.

-- Mikael Wood

Third Eye Blind
"Ursa Major"
Mega Collider
Three stars
Comments () | Archives (25)

Out of the Vein was a great album.

A new Third Eye Blind Record is a real treat!! It feels like its been forever since the last one! WOOOO!!!!

Out of the Vein was probably the strongest 3EB album of all time. Although Ursa Major captures more of the sound of the self-titled cd(which was great too). I am really disappointed with the overall sound. Foe instance the song "one in ten" just seems very weak for a band like 3EB. However, "summer town" and "bonfire" are great.

Out of Vein was absolutely their best CD overall. Any true fan can recognize that is their best album.

I'm mixed on the knew one so far. If it was 10 instead of 12 songs, it probably would of flowed better without a couple fillers as previous poster Luke points out.

This album was worth the wait to produce a top 10 3EB hit, "Why Can't You Be" with Kimya Dawson.

Why can't you be like a art house foreign movie,
Frank and sexy, red balloons, and ennui? And a loof to me and,
Why can't you be a little more of a mystery?
Why can't you be the part of me that's missing?
Instead of leaving me for some other,
Said we're perfect for each other,
And I know we won't go spend our lives alone.

I like Out of the Vein just fine, but I'm sorry, there's no way that's their best album. The self-titled first album, is and will always be their best, as far as I, and I would say most big 3EB fans, are concerned. That Third Eye Blind was raw and real and innovative. We'll never, ever see that band again. And this new album doesn't even touch what they did then. And as a serious fan of them, I can say, I honestly didn't expect it to. It wasn't exactly worth the wait, but all those things considered, it's just good to have a new album to listen to.

OOTV is an incredible CD, don't get me wrong, but it is no way near the ST debut or Blue. OOTV, although great, would be their fourth best album, right behind this one.

This is from a true long time 3eb fan.

I'm sorry but I am giving my complete honest opinion, the reason the album wasn't released for this long is because Stephan Jenkins and the band themselves knew it didn't measure up to their old songs, but ultimately ran out of excuses and time so they just threw it out there anyway. It is a terrible album, I find it hard to listen to most of the songs (if not all, truthfully) and lyrically the songs are so shallow... what a shame. There was so much anticipation going on, it is a let down. I know they can do better.

For those who write positive reviews about this album, it makes me wonder if they are friends of the band? trying to create fake hype about the album? or paid writers? because a genuine critic would state the obvious truth that this album does not cut it.

I love third eye blind but this is just bad.

I don't understand how you could really think this new album is bad. I can't stop listening to it! The lyrics are different from what Stephan usually writes about, but I find them to be anything BUT shallow. He's writing truthfully and about how he sees our world today. It's not only real, but some of the lyrics are really funny/satirical. Summertown... "rock a fanny pack now from the front"... brings you right back to childhood in a summertown! Not everyone has to love the same music, but I think Ursa Major is absolutely the best album since their debut in 97. I say congrats to 3eb on a great album. ALthough I would like to be paid or be a friend of the band, I'm not... so I truly do love Ursa Major. I'm not a music critic or anything, but when I'm playing something on loop for days, usually a good thing.

Out of the Vein was definitly not there best album, the self titled might as well be called there greatest hits cd because that album is incredible. Blue would be a close second followed by ursa the out of the vein.

Honesty, Lets start off by saying that Ursa Major is an album that you have hear over and over to appreciate it. I have been a hardcore fan for 12 years and longed for a new album. The first time I heard Ursa Major I felt a bit disappointed but then it slowly began to play in my head in random occasions. Now I have completely submitted myself to its catchy songs and heartfelt lyrics.
Honestly, I felt like Out of the Vein had some good songs but it was not completely 3eb material. In this album is see a more profound mixture of all the albums especially of the debut album (which was non the less the BEST). Songs such as "One in Ten" is a mixture of the self titled album with Blue. I must agree that Stephan's rapping is not that pleasant and sometimes it feels like he is too smart for his own good. But over all the album is a guilty pleasure with rapping and ballads.

I think it's too easy to compare albums to one another. Really, The self-titled debut, and Blue, and Out of the Vein, and now Ursa Major, all tell the same story: The plucky kid with moxie and a broken nose trying to make sense of a crazy, blinded, wounded world. this album is incredible, whatever anyone has to say about it. Bonfire, Water Landing, Sharp Knife, Why Can't You Be, Don't Believe A Word--Every song on this record is sharp, cutting, to the point, and beautiful. Have you guys noticed that Water Landing doesn't follow anything resembling verse/chorus/verse/chorus? This is innovative, and special, and woe be to those who don't get it. They have no soul.

Third Eye Blind's "Ursa Major" is definitely one of the best soft rock/alternative
albums I've heard in a while, besides Dave Matthews Band's. This is their first album in six years, coming back with their popular pop noise of catchy hooks and cheesy raps. haha. The best songs in my opinion- Sharp Knife, Dao of St. Paul, and Bonfire. But this whole album is altogether the crackkk

and btw, La Times writer, "Out of the Vein" wasn't the best album
I would say "Blue" (1991) or "Third Eye Blind" (1997)

listening right now...and man I have to say I'm liking it...updates coming soon...

Sitting here listening to the song "Bonfire" ... and i can't help but get the feeling that there is some influence from "The Police"... Even the beginning guitar evokes thoughts of the song "Message In A Bottle."
and the melodic WOAHHH OHHHH OHHHHHH WAOHHHHHH.... singing is definately a familiar riff too, but i can't think of what song it reminds me of.

anyone else agree?

Out of the Vein is, no doubt, my favourite album. With the exception of Self Righteous, every song was excellent. A close second is the self-titled debut.

Ursa Major was a bit of a disappointment upon first listen. After some more rounds, certain songs, such as "Why Can't You Be" and "Bonfire" have grown on me significantly, but I don't believe that the album as a whole will ever command the same amount of respect than their previous releases.

Bonfire definitely intro is a Police influence. Message in the bottle.

But I think what is funnier is the Black Eyed Peas , It's gonna be a good night is a hugely influenced song think Semi Charmed life. Watch the videos back to back. The Black Eyed Peas wrote the best 3eb song in years.

Anyone who thinks OOTV is the best album is a complete idiot. Blue is by far 3eb best album!!

the new cd is without a doubt growing on me.one of my favorites is water landing.this song should be part of a movie as the plane is going down .jenkins cleverly and accuratly depics the feelings that all people on the brink of death must face and feel.all my kids(ranges11-18)really enjoy TEB and all there songs.when i was commuting to college in the mid eighties i lived and breathed the police and then sting .thank you TEB for bringing me music that reminded me of my youth.its funny that when i get into the car to bring kids to soccer or gymnastics they want to hear the new TEB cd.there are many great songs on the new cd and many that a true TEB fan would love.lets hear summertown on the mainstream radio to drowned out some of the crap that my kids listen to.todd ,massachusetts

any bands first album is usually their best album..I mean thats a no brainer..because its the first time the world gets to hear the band and its their introduction to us all..it is a difficult feat to outdo your coming out to the world..but I truly believe that any one of the bands albums would have had the same effect on us..they are all good albums..in my opinion they are all classic albums..remember 3eb doesnt care to be a mainstream rockband anymore..they have shy'd away from that for quite some time..they are a band who truly make music for their FANS!!


I was very happy to see that TEB had released a new album, and Ursa Major is a good album in and of itself, although it takes some getting used to, as most of the songs are a bit slower, and sometimes the lyrics are a bit wierd.

However, there is not the use of sex and sexual situations that have cropped up on other TEB albums, and in fact, songs like "Can You Take Me", and "Sharp Knife" have become a couple of my all-time favorite TEB songs. As I get further into the album, I am hoping to find more like these.

John Brengman
Laramie, WY

I love the new album it was great. It took my awhile to like it but i cant take it out of my cd player now its very addicting to me. In my book its my second favorite album of theres. every song grows on you in this new album. It take a bit to like the songs.

3eb's Ursa Major is a fantastic CD. I would give this CD a 9.5/10.0 stars. My favorite songs off this CD are Bonfire, Dao of St. Paul, Why Can't You Be, One in Ten, Sharpe Knife, About to Break, Monotov's Private Opera, Summer Town, and Don't Believe a Word. This is a very strong CD.

This is a very good album but if I were to rank it with the other 3EB albums it would go Out of the Vein, the ST debut, Blue then Ursa Major but that being said it would be like having to choose which of your 4 children you love the best. One may have done or said something that you really loved and were proud of but they are all your beloved flesh and blood and the differences in your heart are too trivial to mention. Another great album that I keep looping and loving more each time. Great job 3EB! Another master piece.

I am very disappointed that "Alright Caroline" wasn't on the new record. I recently discovered it on Utube and it's my newest fav. song by far along with my previous favs. of all time "I Want You" and "Forget Myself" just to name a few. I too am a devoted fan from the start and think Ursa has about 4 good hits with the others as quote "fillers" but don't all records? It's rare to love all the tracks of a whole album. As a rule if I love at least 3 songs on a record I'll buy it. I also agree you grow to like it more after listening a few times. 3EB ROCKS!!


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Recent Posts

Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: