Do you remember you first relationship?
Breathing in each other’s hair, imprinting upon skin, renting time and then moving in? Do you remember when everything went to hell inside the fairytale and out? Interests shifted, feelings fizzled, distance added up and the hourglass ran empty.
Now imagine this power jumping through your headphones, lithely plunging into your ears—a cannonball diving through your heart as Stephan Jenkins voice regales “I remember you and me used to spend the whole goddamned day in bed,” with thunderous splash into a pool filled dense with melancholy and thick with nostalgia.
And despite the threat of lightning, you kept swimming with an acoustic stroke as Jenkin opines of “Narcolepsy:”
“There’s a demon in my head who starts to play
A nightmare tape loop of what went wrong yesterday”
And—ooh who am I kidding—you hear the pop power punch of “Semi-Charmed Life” inciting sly sing-alongs and casual karaoke in the park one summer’s day, cracking your voice in key with Jenkins, before the guitar break on “Jumper” rings dust off the stone walls of your Notre-Dame de Paris.
Lyrics that lick with a vernacular coyness, metal guitarwork tinting the fingertips of Kevin Cadogan, cherry pop vocals with an orange slice of alternative scream, provide many reasons to fall in love with the eponymous debut of Third Eye Blind. The album has more attitude than it successors, perhaps that attitude was too heavy to bear further.
Either way, this dense pop survey of the 90’s-alternative pool that plays good kid, bad attitude. If this record were egged on enough, it would throw a television into the pool and regret it.
For all the forward motion of alternative currents, the lyrical subject goes against, focusing on a critical moment for every relationship: when it’s over. Oh wait, that’s just when Third Eye Blind pops along—when the music goes deeper and heavier, they find harmony with the lyrics.
Suicide, social anxiety, mentally induced disturbia all snarl between the singing teeth of Jenkins to the low frequencies of your eardrums. Soldiers on the back of your neck stand-up, they haven’t felt the same since your ex left the room.
But with a melodic honey bar, Jenkins plays sugar notes on the keys of your tongue, and his autoharp begs your attention. It never telegrams in yellow letters on a bigfooted blimp with the emotion of an egoist, it blows ancient love notes on the breeze. Forget Prout’s Madeleine, this is Jenkin’s Melody, and it’s desperate to tell you “How It’s Going to Be.”
For the first 25 minutes of Third Eye Blind, Jenkin’s talented form promises a font of skill untapped—he proves he can swim the grungerfly and a mean popstroke. In this sprint, Cadogan too, begins to prove his proficiency as a guitarist.
From the good kid on “Graduate,” to the bad attitude of “London,” to sweet kiss of “The Background.” If you had just been listening to the lyrics, now’s the time to stop.
If you have tried to continue the lyrics, let me stop you. That spark leaves the album top heavy—oil on water. This album requires a switch in gears that would otherwise go unknown. It needs you to stop hearing and start listening.
Otherwise the second half of the album is filled with flaws and not much upside. But there’s a damn good chance of naivety. And for most of us, the invisible hand posts a breakup date on the window.
Buying in on the opening conversation, a distorted introduction of “Losing A Whole Year” and sold on the sweetheart riff of “How It’s Going to Be,” it’s hard not to catch yourself in the memories when “I Want You” trades these vocal phases with ease.
Charmed by the lollypop vocals of “Semi-Charmed Life” and enamoured by the in-your-head solo of “Jumper,” it’s their fusion rather than one’s forced servitude on “I Want You” that keeps the song working together rather than falling apart into a thoroughly miserable state.
Nah—on first go, the relationship has two points: how it begins and how it ends. By “Good For You.” On first go, the brain starts to tune out and routine sets in. On first, go the relation disintegration of “Motorcycle Drive By” is the unique track that catches the ear.
Jenkins restarts that flame of aliveness in an aloneness. The situation has changed. The relationship has ended. No longer is fate coupled.
And the pure power of Third Eye Blind’s jumps into an alternative rockstroke, guitars, percussion and vocals course in unison while musing on disparition.
“God of Wine” pulses with acoustic ruminations of a relationship passed, trying not to link memories to the lightning pen-marks of melancholy. Because that feeling won’t go away. Because loving someone writes in permanent ink.
The 20th anniversary of Third Eye Blind does offer new tidbits, saved post-it note demos and a preciously unshared picture or two.
“Alright Caroline” wants you to know the acoustic stylings of “Motorcycle Drive By” were not just some fluke. It follows the electric formula of “God of Wine,” submerging before leaping through the glass pane of water.
But Third Eye Blind never had to chance to share that.
No more than with “Scattered,” another acoustic follow-up in the vein of “Semi-Charmed Life’s” structure. They both work and, in some places, could fit or even replace but it chalks up to simply artistic choice.
“Tattoo of the Sun” is the weakest cut, registering as the segue to more of Blue’s sound. But, everyone knows Blue is a shaky follow-up. It never caught your heart aflame they same way Third Eye Blind did.
“Slow Motion” however, develops a ballad that would have worked heartily on the second side of the debut. Providing a refreshing change of pace from the usual frantic nature of the guitars. I fear it may have butt heads with “Motorcycle Drive By” too much, however.
The other demos don’t reveal much except that Jenkins untamed voice is a little rougher around the edges than you remembered, but this doesn’t change the simple facts: the original material is a strong as ever—stronger, even—and the added material compounds the Third Eye Blind that encapsulated the summer of 1997 forever.
That summer when you met your first relationship. It was awkwardly paced, filled with mistakes and a flameout in the end. But you know they meant every word in the sentence “I love you.” And 20 years on, you still do.
Quick Impressions: Third Eye Blind’s 20th anniversary is something to celebrate. Promises broken, feelings mayhap left shattered, some down-on-their-luck dudes released an alternative rock Sweet Baby James to pick you up from the ground of 2017, dust you off, and send you out into the ‘97 summer sun.
Producer: Eric Valentine, Stephan Jenkins
- “Losing a Whole Year”
- “Semi-Charmed Life”
- “How It’s Going to Be”
- “Thanks a Lot”
- “Burning Man”
- “Good for You”
- “I Want You”
- “The Background”
- “Motorcycle Drive By”
- “God of Wine”
- “Alright Caroline:
- “Slow Motion” (Demo)
- “Semi-Charmed Life” (Demo)
- “Kiss Goodnight” (Demo)
- “Scattered” (Demo)
- “Heroin” (Demo)
- “Tattoo of The Sun”