Don't Call It a Comeback | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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Don't Call It a Comeback

To most who were there, the most memorable of Third Eye Blind's chart battles was the 1997 duel between the band's "Semi-Charmed Life" and Smash Mouth's "Walking on the Sun." But the Billboard standoff, that same year, between 3EB's "How's It Gonna Be" and No Doubt's "Don't Speak" was far more interesting. Both of those latter hit songs simmered on the side of sappy, but at the same time, each showed a depth that the bands' more uptempo tracks barely even suggested. And what 3EB's entry in the race showed, importantly, was that singer Stephan Jenkins wasn't afraid to wear his heart on his proverbial sleeve.

Perhaps it was that sensitivity that swayed Charlize Theron to hook up with the San Francisco song man; by 1998, Jenkins and the actress were a bona fide supercouple. That relationship would last through 3EB's second LP, 1999's Blue, and up to the 2001 hiatus that preceded its third, 2003's Out of the Vein. But don't think that Jenkins was sitting around moping over his breakup with one of the world's most beautiful women. By that latter record, he had singer Vanessa Carlton on his arm.

Then again, maybe that hiatus was on account of lost love, because apparently Jenkins went through a similar bout of writer's block after Vanessa left. And it would be another several years before the band reassembled to record its latest LP, this year's Ursa Major.

Unlike the sex and drugs and love of the band's three previous offerings, the subject matter of Ursa Major is sprawling and sociopolitical. Yes, the song "Why Can't You Be" (with Kimya Dawson!) does hint at the heartbreak of previous songs. But even this new tune is drowned in commentary. It's a theme that's continued to the album's first official single, "Don't Believe a Word," which smacks of celebrity ire. (Sample lyric: "Give me back my photos, will you?/You fucking whore, I'll kill you.")

Despite the turmoil expressed in the new material's content, Third Eye Blind is still at it. And though no one knows who will be by Jenkins' side when he and his bandmates take the stage this Friday at Revolution, it's a cinch we'll hear echoes of those who have been there — and of those who dream of one day being there too. And if that's not enough to keep a rock band out on the road for more than a decade, well, perhaps nothing is.