Third Eye Blind's self-titled debut, released in 1997 on Warner Music subsidiary, Elektra, was a smash hit by all the regular standards: the record has gone platinum six times, has multiple number one singles, and is the quintessential document of the mid-to-late '90s phenomenon curiously dubbed, "alternative rock."
Despite the marketing context his band was organically branded with, chief songwriter Stephen Jenkins is without a doubt, a pop mastermind. The ultimate proof lies in the subject matter of the aforementioned smash hit album: substance abuse and near-constant romantic turmoil.
Third Eye Blind is a distinct record for many reasons, including, in big part, the production choices salient to radio-friendly rock music at the tail-end of the music industry's big budget boom. The mega-studio approach, and Jenkins' uniquely-voiced songwriting -- simple, though highly-lyrical sentiments garnished with direct poetic flourishes -- render the record's intense account of addiction and discord through immaculate pop sheen.
The end result is a record with its crosshairs on Top 40s charts that also deals in a great wealth of heavy material. With the airwaves saturated by his music, I couldn't help but learn a number of serious life lessons from the trials and tribulations of Stephen Jenkins as told in an genre-and-era-defining album.
Lyrics: Everyone's got to face down the demons/Maybe today/You could put the past away
Lesson: 3EB's fifth consecutive hit single uses an anti-suicide metaphor to advocate making necessary changes in one's life no matter how big or difficult they may appear. While "maybe today" is certainly in reference to demons being faced down, when coupled with what follows, the latter 2/3 of the line excerpted above doubly encourages the listener to live in the moment and stop dwelling in the past.
Song: "Losing a Whole Year"
Lyrics: And it always seems that the juice used to flow /In the car, in the kitchen you were good to go/Now we're stuck with the tube/A sink full of dishes and some aqua lube.
Lesson: Although the narrator is using a romantic relationship as the lens through which "Losing a Whole Year" unfolds, the message can be applied to every element of life. Passion always burns bright at first, but quickly burns out. Sustainability is key to sustaining.
Song: "How's It Going to Be?"
Lyrics: Where we used to laugh/There's a shouting match/Sharp as a thumbnail scratch/A silence I can't ignore
Lesson: The denial on trial in "How's It Going to Be?" is often a huge part of the immutability at the core of the struggle in "Jumper." While ruminating on what the future holds following the dissolution of yet another failed romance, the song consistently espouses a one-two punch of "Just Do It!" and "Deal With It!"
Lyrics: Do you live the days you go through/Will this song live on long after we do?
Lesson: Though lofty, there is still a moral here. A moral best explicated by Robin Williams sweating profusely and screaming "Carpe diem!" at young boys. Who knew alt-rock aspired to be so inspirational? We also appreciate the "P.S." inquiry regarding legacy, discourse, and death.
Song: "Semi-Charmed Life"
Lyrics: I believe in the sand beneath my toes/The beach gives a feeling, an earthy feeling/I believe in the faith that grows/And the four right chords can make me cry
Lesson: In the course of recognizing your problems and being proactive about resolving them in the here and now, it's important to stay rooted in the simple pleasures life affords us. Cue Ethan Hawke's Big Mac speech from Reality Bites.. The '90s were all about the "Big Now."
Third Eye Blind. House of Blues 20th Anniversary Presents. 7 p.m., November 19, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $25 plus fees in advance and $27 day of show. Call 954-449-1025, or visit jointherevolution.net.
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