Third Eye Blind - Blue (retro review) (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Third Eye Blind

Blue (retro review) (1999)


Renaldo gave Third Eye Blind’s self-titled debut album five stars for 90’s week two years ago, and while I totally agree with his assessment of that album, I strongly disagree with his claim that nothing after that first album was as good as their debut or that Blue, in particular, didn’t work as well. While it may be true that none of the band’s subsequent albums ever managed to achieve the success of their debut, I personally have never heard a Third Eye Blind album that I didn’t love, and for my money Blue is their best album.

That’s not to say that the road to Blue wasn’t extremely rocky. For one thing, tensions between frontman Stephan Jenkins and guitarist Kevin Cadogan made for an uncomfortable recording situation and ultimately led to Cadogan being fired from the band shortly after the album’s release. Then there was the controversy over the song “Slow Motion,” which the label worried would spark tensions because its lyrics were reminiscent of the Columbine High School massacre of earlier that year. The label tried to offer a compromise where an instrumental version of the song would appear on the album and the band would be allowed to release an EP later on with the full lyric version of the song. The EP never materialized, but two versions of the album were released, one with a version of the song where only the choruses had lyrics, and one with no lyrics whatsoever, each with the track placed at a different point on the album. The full lyric version of “Slow Motion” wouldn’t see a release until the band’s greatest hits album, A Collection, in 2006.

But for all of the difficulties behind the scenes, the album’s gorgeous melodies just can’t be ignored. Stephan Jenkins is a pretty underrated songwriter as people often just listen to the pop hooks and ignore the lyrics. I still get shocked looks when I explain to people that the band’s first single off their debut album, “Semi-Charmed Life,” is about having sex on crystal meth. (The lyrics are pretty obvious if you pay attention.) Blue indulged some of Jenkins’ other influences outside of pop. The band had appeared on a Clash tribute album earlier that year performing “Train in Vain,” and Jenkins has publicly expressed his love of The Clash and other punk artists several times, so it should be no surprise that opening track and lead single, “Anything,” is a straight up pop-punk song, complete with the terse two-minute song length. Likewise the closing track, “Darwin,” indulges some of Jenkins’s love of hip-hop. “Anything” was a pretty abject failure as a single, though, and soon after it was scrubbed from radio stations in favor of the much catchier “Never Let You Go” with its beautiful chord-based hook.

Without Cadogan, who had been co-songwriter for both of the first two albums, Jenkins turned to various other band members to write songs with and, while I maintain that the band still puts out quality material and killer live shows to this day, fewer and fewer people have seemed to agree with me over time and pretty much every album has driven them farther and farther from the mainstream. But I’ll still pick up a new Third Eye Blind album from time to time and fall in love all over again.