Third Eye Blind

Elektra Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Mark Feldman


Nineteen ninety-seven wasn't that long ago, but in the world of pop music it may as well have been the dark ages - it was around that time that the "adult alternative" format was starting to explode, and with it the success of oodles of "sincere" bands, drawing their inspiration from the dying grunge movement but sounding comparatively glossed over, much like what the "new romantics" (think Spandau Ballet, Flock of Seagulls) relation was to punk rock. And unsurprisingly, flavors of the month such as Tonic, Fuel, Spacehog, and Dishwalla have all gone the way of Spandau Ballet, being remembered for one or two glorious hits, but little else, their CDs flooding cutout bins everywhere.

Also among those sincere bands was Third Eye Blind, whose debut single "Semi-Charmed Life" was catchy and cute, but had all the makings of '90s ephemera, and none of the makings of a band that would make a lasting impression. Then something odd happened. A second single ("Jumper") began to get some airplay. And now a second album has already churned forth one mega-hit, in "Never Let You Go."

Still, there was every reason to be skeptical when first popping the new disc Blue, which I gritted my teeth and shelled the dough out for after the ability to finally admit to myself that I liked "Never Let You Go," into the CD player. But much to my surprise / chagrin, I now have to admit something even more unbelievable. This is a very, very good band - a band that is pushing the boundaries of power pop as we know it.

We've all heard the single 78,000 times by now, so it'll suffice to say it is, as of May 2000, the most infectious mega-hit of the still-young decade. It's equally as powerful as a "Jesse's Girl" or a "There She Goes," so I have a feeling it's here to stay forever - it'll show up on oldies stations everywhere in 30 years. It would be reasonable to expect "An Ode To Maybe" to be the second single - it's the second poppiest song on the disc, and boasts another extremely infectious yet simplistic two chord theme. But perhaps the most telling line on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Blue is from that song - "If I could bottle my hopes in a store bought scent / they'd be nutmeg and peach and they'd pay the rent." 3EB singer / writer Stephan Jenkins is already a master at creating music that both pays the rent and is - dare we say - experimental.

Nowhere is he more daring thematically than on "Wounded," which is a frightening and gripping letter from a man to a girlfriend who has been attacked. "We're missing you" gets repeated throughout the song, which is interesting - the narrator misses his girlfriend as "one of the gang" as well as a lover - and could very well be autobiographical. But whether it is or not, you've got to admire the soul bearing.

We only a get few seconds until "10 Days Late" comes on, the title of which speaks for itself. "Camouflage" is a wistful take on loneliness, and "1000 Julys" is a steamy paean to infatuation. In general, the swagger, anger and bitterness of Third Eye Blind's first album has been replaced by a far wider variety of emotions of themes, a good sign of a maturing writer.

There are some wild things going on musically as well. "Deep Inside Of You" recalls early U2 somewhat in its torch ballad approach. "Farther" and "Camouflage" both pile on the echoing effects, the former with an up-close approach (think Paul McCartney home demos), the latter just the opposite. "1000 Julys" is nearly heavy metal - not Seattle-esque flannel heavy metal, but poodle-haired, spandexed '80s heavy metal. Only Jenkins' voice itself keeps it from sounding like the second coming of Motley Crue. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit.

Things do go a bit too far with the game of spot-the-influence on "The Red Summer Sun," which boasts a mellotron that can't help but remind us of Led Zeppelin's "Rain Song," and then in the chorus, Jenkins screeches out his best Robert Plant, so blatantly, that he has no qualms about the fact that the first line of said chorus is "been a long time, been a long time!" Coincidence?

If there's any problem with Blue, it's what that Plant imitation symbolizes - Third Eye Blind are trying a bit too hard to be epic, and falling (but only lightly) on their faces. There are about 55 minutes of good ideas on this album. Unfortunately, it is 70 minutes long. Repetitive fragments like those in "Red Summer Sun," "Camouflage" and "Slow Motion" drag on for too long, and the amateur scientist sentiments of "Darwin" should never have seen the light of day.

But we shouldn't let the failed experiments overshadow the successful ones. This may be as good as this band will ever get, but if it is, we can always remember the old joke: What do you call the person who finishes at the bottom of his class in the worst medical school in the country? Doctor. What do you call the least adventurous, shortest lived band that made a few catchy singles and two good albums? Rock stars. Third Eye Blind has already escaped being our generation's Flock of Seagulls - they may yet be our generation's Men at Work. But it beats having to work for a living.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 2000 Mark Feldman and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.