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3 Doors Down

The Better Life

By Dan Katz

Staff Writer

A couple of years ago, the bands to emulate in modern rock were the likes of Matchbox 20, Smash Mouth, and Third Eye Blind, as alternative radio stations became flooded with wickedly catchy upbeat power pop tunes. However, in today’s neo-metal-driven climate, even the tame end of the spectrum has become heavier. The new ripoff du jour seems to be Creed, who surprised the world by debuting their new album at no. 1, ushering in a wave of straight-up rock bands.

On their new album, The Better Life, New York quartet 3 Doors Down (who make their Boston debut tomorrow night at Axis) proves themselves among the best in the genre with eleven tracks loaded with hooks for mainstream appeal, but with an energy and drive that keeps them from sounding like mere imitators.

The opener “Kryptonite,” which is currently climbing the rock radio charts, is an ingenious construction of clean guitar arpeggios over a skipping swing-time drum line, bursting into a hard-hitting chorus where distorted guitars deftly snatch the focus from the rhythm section. Drummer-vocalist (there’s a novelty) Brad Arnold evokes a bit of Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas in his voice, and the music has shades of Creed and recent Metallica.

“Loser,” most likely the album’s next single, is dark, brooding, and slow in the spirit of Creed’s “My Own Prison,” with the exception of a bridge that unexpectedly switches into double time with the introduction of a crunching guitar.

The band’s melodies are gripping, the harmonies are well-executed without sounding cheesy, and the song structures, as above, are often brilliant.

The typical power ballad rears its ugly head on the album in the form of “Be Like That,” and while it’s not a bad song, it detracts from the momentum of the album slightly, especially since it follows two of the best songs on the album: “Not Enough,” and my personal favorite, “Duck And Run,” an ominous track that benefits from a great bass line and excellent use of backing acoustic guitars.

“Down Poison” is a little overdramatic and evokes comparison to Matchbox 20’s “Busted” (possibly a result of the vocal similarities cited above), while the fast-paced title track uses key changes and a speedy guitar riff to create a nice frantic atmosphere, a mood also captured in the cut-time song “Smack.”

The album finishes off with “So I Need You.” At just under four minutes, the song is hardly an epic, but somehow it creates a great feeling of resolution in its simplicity, making it the perfect closer for the album.

I don’t have much that’s bad to say about this album, except maybe that some of the songs sound very similar, to the point where I had to listen to the album several times before I could remember which verses went with which choruses. The choruses themselves are all well-written and distinguishable, however. 3 Doors Down aren’t an innovative, cutting edge group, but they know how to rock, and I’m inclined to call The Better Life the best guitar rock album I’ve heard so far this year. The band has the infectious hooks necessary to pick up an audience, but plenty of bands have that. 3 Doors Down has an album full of good music to back it up, and that’s what really counts. The Better Life is a recommended buy.