Third Eye Blind
Stephan Jenkins - Vocals/Guitar
Kevin Cadogan - Guitar/Vocals
Arion Salazar - Bass/Vocals
Brad Hargreaves - Drums
Mike Urbano - Drums (auxiliary)
Third Eye Blind has declined quite a bit since the release of this album in 1997, their first and best. Their initial rise and incredible popularity early on is supposedly the detriment of New Orleans' Better Than Ezra, as BTE says that Elekra left them for "One-Hit Wonder" status once they signed Stephan and company. For a brief history of Third Eye Blind, visit [url]www.allmusic.com[/url] or [url]www.3eb.com[/url].
Losing A Whole Year -
The opening track starts with some falsettos in the background and shimmering chords ushering the chorus in. As is the case with the rest of the album, the lyrics are about a failed relationship. The structure isn't too surprising but there is a refreshing breakdown after one bar of the last chorus which stops in time for the next track.
This starts slowly enough with Stephan singing and Kevin jangling along. Falsettos kick in again and the cymbals lightly come in with an ever-rising bass line. Verse again, then into the rocking part. Mr. Jenkins likes using falsetto quite a bit and it shows up often on the album. As can be expected, the song is about narcolepsy and narrates someone with it, saying that falling asleep at random is more like a demon taking control. A nice little guitar solo and another ending breakdown keep things fresh.
Semi-Charmed Life -
If you've heard 3EB before, this is probably the song. Quite possibly the happiest-sounding and upbeat songs on the album, it's about a drug addict chasing the next high, creating a very nice contrast between mood and meaning. The bass thumps along while the guitar alternates between the forefront and the background and Stephan half-raps the verses. This song contains the unforgettable lines "we tripped on the urge to feel alive" and "I want something else to get me through this semi-charmed kind of life," the latter being the opening line of the infectious chorus. Another bridge sneaks in, but it's well-thought-out enough to not seem formulaic. If you were around in the late 90s, you know this song. 3EB know how to write a hook and this song screams "summer" in all its drug-induced euphoria and stupor.
Another single, surfacing over a year after the album came out. In contrast to the last few somber tracks, the slower pace and more acoustic-based Jumper is a plea for a friend to not jump off the edge of a building, metaphorical or real, and face their life. More drug references are in here. As is the standard thus far, there is a breakdown featuring Stephan letting out a triumphant wail like a girl while the bass and drums drive things on, keeping the building guitar solo driving as a piano fill joins along. The chorus repeats a few times and the song ends with a military-like beat and a stuttering bass line.
The band gets back into the rock swing with a little clean guitar intro. Stephan yells "Can I graduate?" and the distortion kicks in with the rest of the band. It's not a high school anthem, though, as the lyrics are more of a graduation from street urchin/druggie/liar to someone who isn't ashamed to look people in the eye and come out in the daylight. The song is decent enough.
How's It Going To Be -
This song received a lot of airplay when it first came out and rightfully so. 3EB goes back to the acoustics with a minimal but powerful lead part until Stephan starts singing. His voice sounds more worn and weary than the bravado shown on the other tracks. Even when singing about drug addiction, he had certainty and confidence. Here, his is a voice of a broken man genuinely but somewhat knowingly asking a lover "How's it going to be?" The bridge in this one isn't softer like in the other songs but has distortion to the chords used throughout and that serves to give Stephan's voice its power again. The song slowly dies out after a return to acoustics.
Thanks A Lot -
More distortion, more mid-tempo rock. "I slit the throat of your confidence" would otherwise sound like mediocre poetry but it's not stressed or given too much power to ruin itself. After the first chorus's fun with lead guitar fills, the drummer lets out a quick little fill. Kevin lets out a wah-tinged solo that fits very well into the song before another bridge that again isn't obvious or so flamboyant that it ruins the song. More clean channel for a few bars, then into the fuzzed-out chorus again. The end is a bit of a freak-out with a mini-bass solo, some piano, and feedback
Burning Man -
A bouncy but chilled guitar flows along with the drums. This is a carpe diem song, with the burning man simile serving as a reason to go while you're hot and not stopping until you have to. Simple song, nice to drive along to.
Good For You -
Starts off heavy and harder, darker than the past few. A barely-there guitar floats while the drums pound along with Stephan's almost-threatening mouthing of "Hey, will you stay awhile? My smile will not mislead you." The pre-chorus hits hard as the guitar pops out more, the vocals are upped, and the chorus menacingly comes in again. The lyrics aren't very intense but their delivery is what makes the song what it is, especially in the second half when they are yelled.
The snare drives along and a pinch harmonic-heavy guitar comes in. It's about chasing a drug-addicted girl to London though he doesn't want to go there and she ends up messing with him throughout. It's a relatively average rocker.
I Want You -
Maracas and a kick/snare rhythm plod along with an acoustic and some ambient noise in the background. The chill is back in this one with some synthy lines coming in and out. Though containing the idiotic couplet "You want to know how deeply my soul goes?/Deeper than bones," it's still a decent love song and the last remotely happy one on the album. Besides, it's forgiven by the line "There will be no regrets when the worms come."
The Background -
The last three tracks are depressing. The Background is a slow burner with a chorus/tremoloed out guitar, then a clean twirling line. Stephan's voice is dipped in reverb and the mood of the song is set. Kevin has a nice tone throughout, alternating between a bluesy single-coil neck sound and a trembling treble. If you've ever had that one person and can't quite let them go, you'll understand this song, particularly the lines "I felt you long after we were through" and the subsequent crying lead part, or the entire chorus. Some baggage can't be dropped.
Motorcycle Drive By -
In my opinion, one of the best songs on the album. Stephan on a fingerpicked acoustic starts the track off and starts singing his narrative of visiting a girl, knowing he'd never have a chance with her. He paints the girl to be perfect, "guiltless and free". The song is hopeless, absolutely hopeless. After Stephan lets out "I've never been so alone and I've never been so alive," the song picks up a little with more percussion and distorted guitars. Stephan sings over the driving instrumentation and it seems more like a desperate effort in a losing battle. Therefore, the acoustics return, the rest of the instrumentation goes away, and the song ends with voice and guitar.
God Of Wine -
A simple guitar line backed by the persistent beating of the kick, snare, and hi-hats continues along while Stephan sing-speaks the beginning of the closing track. I forget the poet, but someone once wrote that you can't return to the womb, and this song is about that in a different sense. Again, Stephan is talking about a relationship and his inability to "get clean again". The bridge's "I can't keep it all together (stay, girl, with me, come on)" is powerful and features some more distortion. Ending on the lyrics "A sadness I can't erase all alone on your face" and a dying guitar close up the album.
7 years after its release, I still listen to this album. Maybe it's the emotional attachment to almost every song and the memories that come to me when listening to it, but I love it. Reviews are subjective, though, so let's forget that. Stephan Jenkins was an English major in college and, though his ability has waned since graduation, this collection of 14 songs showcases him at his prime. The band is tight and fresh and keeps the music as diverse as they can. Still, the words have their weak points and the instrumentation has a formulaic quality, even if both are covered and made seamless most of the time. "God of Wine" would have been better without the distorted parts and some may be put off by the majority of the album being songs of love or love lost. Still, the album is worth a listen/purchase.
4/5. No conventions are tilted on their axes and 3EB isn't full of virtuoso musicians, but they can make excellent songs. Though their latest album may imply otherwise, their debut exhibits a strong band with the able team of Cadogan and Jenkins as songwriters. Hopefully, they can get their shi
t together and make a swan song worthy of what they once were.