As the '90s drew to a close, and Third Eye Blind
(the album) began to slow down, Third Eye Blind (the band) had to find a way to cement their image as one of the great pop/rock bands of the decade. With Blue
, they more than accomplished this goal, as a brilliant mix of alt rock ethos, pop rock hooks and the occasional post-grunge or electronica flare ties togther an album that is strong front to back and stands up as possibly the defining album of the late '90s alt rock boom.
pulls no punches from the beginning, as "Anything" has a short intro into a rocking, slightly creepy love song. Stephen Jenkins' vocals are spot on, delivering lyrics comparing his love to the ever-classy Jackie O. over a post-grunge guitar blitz with hints of keyboard in the background. From the romance to the darker side of love, Blue
moves seamlessly into "Wounded," a song sung to a female friend with an abusive boyfriend. The lyrics are poignant, and the instrumentation starts out slightly understated until eventually boiling over into angry (but catchy) hammering as Jenkins intones "Back down the bully to the back of the bus/'Cause it's time for him to be scared of us...rock on, baby, rock on!"
Third Eye Blind is obviously concerned primarily with love in all shapes and sizes, from burning adult passion to teen sex. "10 Days Late" is a terrified teen's reaction to his girlfriends announcement that she's...well, ten days late. The lyrics capture the confused emotions and deer-in-the-headlights effect this has on the boy, who (in the spirit of love, of course) eventually does the right thing and decides to stay with her and help raise the child. "Never Let You Go," the lead single and one of the catchiest guitar hooks ever, again deals with love, in this case on man's love for his imperfect but still wonderful lover. Jenkins' falsetto is on full display, as fully half the song is sung in castrato ranges, and unlike too many male singers, he knows how to use it.
"Deep Inside of You" is an unashamed love song, with just enough innuendo thrown in to propel it from cheesey to honestly endearing. Suddenly, the tempo is kicked up a notch with "1,000 Julys," a rocker with a romantic twist about two outcasts who find love throughout what seems like 1,000 Julys. "An Ode to Maybe" may actually be the best song on the record, a vivid description of a dreamscape fraught with danger and adventure that one might navigate correctly...maybe.
After a rocker like "1,000 Julys," the weirdness level is kicked up a bit with "An Ode to Maybe," then shot through the roof with "Red Summer Sun." An electronica intro, guitars wah-ed almost out of recognition, and cryptic (but romantic!) lyrics - even what sounds suspiciously like an homage to Steven Tyler of Aerosmith makes "Red Summer Sun" by far the strangest track on this album, but still entertaining - just incoherent. "Camouflage" is certainly another weird song, but it's a bit more comprehendable than "Red Summer Sun." Sure, you still can't understand the lyrics at all, but the instrumentation is held together by a strong, rock drum beat, and the keyboards are overshadowed by post-grunge guitars.
In "Farther," things get back to basics, with catchy guitar hooks and lovelorn lyrics describing the undesired end of a relationship. Not a breakup song by any means, it is more a plea for forgiveness wrapped up in enough machismo to keep the whipped rumors at bay. The opening guitar riff for "Darkness" evokes just that - the feeling of empty, total darkness. Again, the lyrics don't really make sense, which fits the feel of the song - that of a man searching for his identity in the darkness of his confusion (cliche, I know, but applicable). Now, Christian fundamentalists beware: "Darwin" is a trumpeting of evolutionary science wrapped up in electronic, catchy pop rock. A bouncy song with exceedingly clever lyrics (they have to be clever to make the subject interesting) make this a unique and impressive song that most likely would have created controversy if released as a single. Lyrics like "The spaceman f***ed an ape/they cut out on the tape" and "The grandson of an alien wears his snakeskin boots/shows his reptile roots" are weird while strangely making sense.
"Slow Motion" is possibly the weakest song on the record, at least in a pop sense, as four and a half minutes are devoted to what sounds like an instrumental interstellar journey. Musically, however, this might be the most impressive, as that first 4:30 showcases the band outside of Stephen Jenkins' lyrics, and, after a fade out, a sort of second part to "Red Summer Sun" closes both that strange song and the excellent record very satisfactorily.