A little story:
Once upon a time, you're a struggling rock act in some weary old town where no one listens to anything not produced after 1977, skimping and saving to finance your musical "career". Then one day, your face is suddenly all over MTV, your voice filling up the airwaves with your couple of neat, sing-able tunes.
"We did it!" you shout to the world. "We made it!" Suddenly, your parents are proud of you for the first time in your life, your ex-girlfriend regrets calling you a pig and throwing you out of the house because, dammit, you're a star! Gee, this success thing is easy, you think, just write yourself a decent song, with a charming melody, add in some lyrical dramatics, kick in with the bust-a-gut guitars in the middle somewhere and -- presto! -- you've got yourself a number one hit on the charts and Blockbuster Music Award on your mantel.
But, then, something happens. Soon, the confetti settles neatly on the ground, and you realize there's no one behind you throwing it anymore. Why? Because some other long-haired, rockin' bozos are camping out in your tent up near the crystalline waters known as Number One with a better, catchier, slightly more depressing song, and the kids fucking love it. Left to twiddle your thumbs, you decide it's time for Album Number Two. In the studios, boys, let's write!
The End. Literally.
So, maybe this little scenario is nowhere close to the career of 3 Doors Down, a band who emerged from obscurity in 2000 with the kick-ass, four-different-chart-topping "Kryptonite" from their six million selling album, The Better Life. In fact, it could be so far off, it's embarrassing. But, with so many glossy, new rock acts popping up like Patterson's Curse about the music scene, each seemingly just as successful as the last, I'm betting it's somewhere close to the truth. Maybe. A bit.
Second Album time has arrived for the four lads from rural Mississippi, and while the result of their hard work, Away From the Sun is a definite improvement on their debut smash record, with far better lyrics and a pinched and pruned playing style adding a brand new succinctness to their songs. Because of this, the band deserves to be given a second shot at the mega-stardom experienced a couple of years ago. However, the question is not "Is this better than this first album?" or "Can we equal past success?" The question, quite simply, is, "Will anybody give a shit?"
They proabably won't, but here are a few reasons why they should:
"When I'm Gone": The first single from this new collection of tracks is also its opening number. Though inescapable from a Matchbox Twenty comparison, this affecting song is perfect pop-rock, polished and definite. It's structurally similar to the Doors' previous hits, demonstrating the band's desire to stick to what they do best, but there is something certainly more grown-up about the song, leaving behind the Superman gimmickry for a more personal, reflection of life in someone else's sometimes-distant arms.
"Goin' Down in Flames": Hey! Where's the dance floor? It's impossible not to get into this bouncing, rolling, screaming song. It's chock-full of catchy riffs, funky rhymes, and is brimming with bitchiness. This excellent, understated track is testament to the band's evolving talent.
"Sarah Yellin'": Similar to "Flames", this song feels almost experimental when compared to the rest of the more accessible tracks on the album. Singer Brad Arnold excels himself vocally, with the band showing up many of their harder rock contemporaries with a Metallica-type few minutes executed at a fire-breathingly quick pace with a far rougher edge than anything the band has done in the past.
"Running out of Days": This simple song about a lack of time to do everything that must be done in one's relatively short time on Earth is a great example of the Doors' expert melding of rich musical fervor and emotionally charged lyrics belted out by Arnold with a softer, more innocent approach.
And there's just so much more to love (including a deliriously enjoyable hidden track). The great thing about this album is it's extraordinary lack of ego. Success has obviously not tarnished the Doors' sense of self and purpose, with no overblown acrobatics anywhere in sight. These guys know they've a long way to go before they can consider themselves a real success story, and these tracks, along with quite a few others on Away From the Sun demonstrate their ability to stay well back from any grandstanding and just make honest, genuine music.