Time waits for no one, Mick Jagger sang exactly 30 years ago, and neither does rock. Considering the way it reinvents itself every few years, it can actually be far crueler than any calendar. Take, for instance, the case of 3 Doors Down.
During the genre’s recent Dark Ages — the mid-to late ’90s and early into the new century — those never-say-die rock fans set adrift in an ocean of teen pop and hip-hop had to settle for the monolithic, skulking style embodied by a bunch of interchangeable bands: Creed, Fuel, matchbox twenty, Nickelback, Puddle of Mudd, and, of course, 3 Doors Down. All shared several traits: a post-grunge reliance on songs that lurched from simmer to boil; a generic, every-shlub look to match their sound; and a tendency to depict white-guy angst as a Sisyphean struggle against vague oppressive forces. They sounded as if they were raging not against the machine so much as a wind tunnel.
Seventeen Days pretty much picks up where 3 Doors Down’s two multiplatinum predecessors — which gave us such sterling examples of the new plod rock as ”Here Without You” and ”When I’m Gone” — left off. In the three years since Away From the Sun, many rockers have begun taking their cues from the newwave early ’80s. But listening to Seventeen Days, you’d never know it. As before, the band carts out a competent, predictable mix of appealing pile drivers (”Let Me Go”) and modern Southern rock (the vaguely creepy ”Father’s Son,” about a teen prostitute and the man who beds her). Again, those songs are interspersed with de rigueur brooding ballads (”Landing in London,” a weary-from-the-road number that tries to be their ”Wanted Dead or Alive”) as well as requisite attempts to show they can get all fast and furious on us (”Right Where I Belong”). Success has not made singer Brad Arnold any more at ease, either. He’s ”bottled up all of this pain,” walks a road ”paved with the broken promises I made,” and tells us he ”wanted to be anyone else/only to find that there was no one there but me.” It’s a veritable 44-minute therapy session set to dour chords and detonated-grenade choruses. And it all feels as antiquated as an X-Files marathon.
Albums like Seventeen Days make it easy to understand why so many have begun gravitating toward friskier, more idiosyncratic newbies like the Killers or Franz Ferdinand. Rock’s rediscovery of post-punk dance zing may be too retro at times, but it’s still a welcome relief from the soul-crushing thud of 3 Doors Down. It isn’t necessarily the band’s fault that its style has dated so quickly, but the album makes you wonder if 3 Doors Down and Fuel performed at one of Bush’s recent inaugural concerts because, political leanings aside, they thought Bill Clinton was still president.