Third Eye Blind

Third Eye Blind

Elektra Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/11/1999

I'm not sure exactly when I became a prude.

Not when I was a head-banging seventeen-year-old AC/DC fan, that's for sure. Not when I wrote an opinion piece for the San Francisco Examiner a few years ago blistering Dan Quayle's elitist, sexist, homophobic vision of "family values" (give me a break, Mr. Potatoe-head).

Not even when attention-starved Alanis Morissette -- my personal pick for "Most Overrated Artist of the '90s" -- stirred things up by talking dirty about her ex's sex life did I rise to object.

The reason is simple: AC/DC and Alanis -- not to mention Clueless Dan -- don't market themselves to nine-year-olds.

I had actually decided not to review this album -- frankly, there isn't much here to review -- and I do apologize to readers who rightfully expect more discussion of the music than I'm going to offer. But just when I'd decided to take a pass, Third Eye Blind singer/lyricist/bandleader Stephan Jenkins suddenly caught my attention by wrangling himself a couple of smarmy little self-promos during ABC's "T.G.I.F." Friday night block.

For the uninitiated, T.G.I.F. is the last remaining holdout of quote-unquote family programming left on network TV. It offers four somewhat sugary, family-centered sitcoms that are, if nothing more, a safe haven for my kids, ages seven, nine and eleven. Unlike other totally-inappropriate-for-8:00 shows such as Friendsmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 or Dawson's Creek (both of which I enjoy), you can at least count on the Olsen twins not to crack one-liners about oral sex or call each other "bitch."

Meanwhile, Jenkins is the leader of a band that's made its name on a catchy little single about getting a blowjob while strung out on meth.

Musically, "Semi-Charmed Life" is a better-than-average piece of alt-pop songcraft. The guitars ring and hammer around a sweet central riff, and Jenkins and his not untalented band frame the choruses with an instantly memorable "doot-doot-doot, doot-doo-doot-doo" chant. Meanwhile, Jenkins' nasal, hyperactive vocal delivery obscures much of the verses.

It's an approach that's bound to draw in a younger set of listeners like my 11-year-old, who thought the song was cool enough to pick out the album when he went shopping last month with Grandma. Then, back at home, his mom and I started reading the lyric sheet and gave each other the patented parental "uh-oh" look.

"She comes around and she goes down on me"? "Chop another line"? "Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break"? "I feel like I could die and that would be alright"? Thanks for sharing, but I don't think so.

At that point I wasn't really mad, just disappointed. We're the ones who gave the green light for our son to buy it without checking the lyrics first, and anybody who cares to has every right to write poppy songs aimed at an adult audience, though I think they have an obligation to go about it responsibly. So I took custody of the CD ("Hey, maybe I can still review this...") and we went back and bought our son something more appropriate.

That was the end of the story until Jenkins showed up, looking oh-so-cool with his rock-star hair and a studio mixing board behind him, to associate himself with the last block of prime-time programming on network TV aimed specifically at the twelve-and-under set -- at which point I completely lost it. (And no, I don't blame ABC or corporate parent Disney; they probably got suckered by the poppy-sounding music just like I did.)

Stephan Jenkins, you go ahead and write your derivative, monumentally self-absorbed alt-rock odes to slacking ("Losing a Whole Year"), alcoholism ("God of Whine," I mean "Wine"), and "Narcolepsy" (oooo, a big word in a song title, I'm so NOT impressed). Go ahead and try to dress up your second-rate Matchbox20 guitar hooks by aping Led Zep/Aerosmith slow-build song structures. Prove how with-it you are by writing a song referencing the embarrassingly hip "Burning Man" festival, a lame excuse to kill a few brain cells if ever I heard one.

Just don't EVER come peddling your smug, totally irresponsible, "sex and drugs and slacking and suicide are so fascinating, aren't they, kiddies?" attitude on my nine-year-old's favorite show again. By doing promos on T.G.I.F., you have declared yourself the Joe Camel of alt-rock sleaze -- a title that makes being labeled a prude sound like a compliment.

Rating: D-

User Rating: B


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