The stronger songwriting on 3 Doors Down's multi-platinum sophomore effort, Away from the Sun, was encouraging, especially after the rote post-grunge of their 2000 breakthrough, "Kryptonite." But the hit single "When I'm Gone" resonated in particular with American military personnel and their families, who identified with lyrics like "Hold me when I'm here" and "Love me when I'm gone" as deployment to Iraq became imminent in spring 2003. That populism guides Seventeen Days, the Mississippi band's third full-length album. Its liner notes connect to a cross-section of U.S. culture, thanking NFL quarterbacks and major league ballplayers alongside Tim McGraw, Metallica, Dale Earnhart Jr., and "our troops everywhere." And Away from the Sun's Southern rock flourishes have been broadened to create an album that's purely American, built from meaty power chords and everyman lyrics that search for redemption in plain-faced terms. It's no surprise that Bob Seger, heartland crier from another era, guests on "Landing in London." It's not the weary traveler's anthem Seger's "Turn the Page" is -- "London"'s keening strings can't replace the pain and longing of Alto Reed's saxophone wail. But 3 Doors Down try their best, and Seger's rough tenor riding shotgun makes the song more memorable. "When I'm Gone"'s template repeats throughout "Seventeen Days." Lead single "Let Me Go" has the usual quieter verses building to a strong chorus, with easily identifiable lyrics like "You love me/But you don't know who I am." "Be Somebody" and "Real Life" use similar pieces, aligning thick distortion choruses next to brooding verses and lyrics about finding one's own road. The harder-charging guitars of "Never Will I Break" and "Right Where I Belong" reference Alice in Chains' legacy, "Father's Son" is a morality tale in more quiet/loud dynamics, and "My World" amplifies Southern rock capably. 3 Doors Down have hit on a formula that works very well for them. It's a great framework for Brad Arnold's earnest lyrics, and the heavy bass and rousing guitar melodies ensure plenty of radio play. It's not unique, and the songs tend to run together. But they're heartfelt, and easily fill the average American's rock & roll quota.
Johnny Loftus, Rovi