The Who: Some bands, such as Fountains of Wayne, labor under the mantle of indie rock or some such obscuring title for years and years before mainstream America realized that they've got something really special going on, and they win an ironic, but well-meaning Grammy for Best Newcomer. The ascent to fame for this pop rock band from Escatawpa, Mississippi was nothing like that. After playing for a few months in their home area, they played a showcase at CBGB, were signed to a major label and had the megahit, "Kyrptonite" on their hands. Oddly, it was one of three songs at the time to highlight the comic superhero, Superman - the other two being Five For Fighting's "Superman (It's Not Easy)" and Flaming Lips' "Waiting For A Superman."
The Buzz: 3 Doors Down are a middle of the road kind of band. They and their fans know what they like and they're sticking to it. That's fine, it means those listeners who think 3 Doors Down's first album, The Better Life, was the bees' knees, will be consistently kept happy by each subsequent studio output. The downside to having a horizontal development arc is the near-total lack of excitement over the fellas' innovations. Very little is being said of 3 Doors Down's self-titled album, other than the fact that Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s promotion of the single at the Nascar All-Star event.
The Verdict: It's a little hard to tell who 3 Doors Down is on their eponymous release. The album starts out hard with the rocker "Train," but vocalist Brad Arnold, comes in with lyrics that are sappy and uncertain of themselves, as though he were taking a stab at vulnerability, but doesn't want to seem "fancy," as they say. The following track, "Citizen/Soldier," stays somewhat more on-message, but that message is a clouded and unspecific jingoism. Without delving into the particularities of a soldier's duties and responsibilities, the exaltation thereof rings a bit hollow. Production for the album is excellent, and musicianship is always pitch-perfect, but a thorough listening to the album leaves us wanting more. If the musicians had struck a wrong note, if Arnold had let the mask slip a little, 3 Doors Down would've sounded more human and been more captivating.
The Grade: C+