3 Doors Down; 30 Seconds to Mars

Mississippi's 3 Doors Down make top-notch second-notch rock: "Kryptonite," the big one from their debut, 2000's The Better Life, married cleanly corrosive guitars, efficient rock-dude vocals, a Nickelback chorus that actually swung and a snare drum riff that made it easy to pick out on the radio. Away From the Sun, the band's new one, is less distinctive--slower tempos, Rick Parashar's anonymous production, no snare drum riffs--but it still shows how capable of filling a slot these guys are; lead single "When I'm Gone" could score a zillion angry Friday-night drives away from her or home or whatever without losing its bland functionality. 30 Seconds to Mars could offer that type of generic appeal: The guitars bite, the choruses roar, the singer closes his eyes. Only the singer is actor Jared Leto, so the band's self-titled debut isn't just another hunk of modern-rock detritus (even though, um, it is). Leto takes the opportunity to air his apparently long-burning fascination with undigested sci-fi paranoia--"I open up my head inside and find another person's mind," he shrieks on "The Mission"--and because he hired Bob Ezrin, the dude who did The Wall, to produce, he ends up with a slick approximation of that Deadsy record from earlier this year. It's called diversification, kids.

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