Own It or Disown It: #284: Third Eye Blind, Third Eye Blind

OwnItorDisownIt

The alternative rock band's smash debut album turned twenty years old this year.

The one word that floats to the top when I think of how to sum up Third Eye Blind’s merits is “useful”. It’s a complicated album of conflicted emotional stakes, sad songs set to happy music that occasionally features several key changes across the course of one track. It’s a technically accomplished record that checks almost all of the boxes of what we value in rock music, and it is useful to have a reminder that an album with such descriptors can still be dull as tar.

I don’t want to undersell that Third Eye Blind’s Third Eye Blind has some surprisingly complicated compositions. This is an alternative rock album with pop tendencies, but even when they’re not engaging in songs with several key changes (most notably “Narcolepsy”), they’re not content with having the second chorus sound like the first. The album is a moving target, and this all might have resulted in an engaging pop record had TEB been content with making dumb music. We can’t have nice things, though, so this is a statement album about important things, and it is so much worse for it.

Nothing epitomizes this turgid attitude quite like the biggest hit here, “Semi-Charmed Life”, the soundtrack of several beach parties and trailers for kids’ movies. It should be an energetic piece that is content to be vaguely about love or some crap, but it lacks the spark to really sell its convictions in that regard, settling on being stuck in third gear. To be fair, the band have made it clear that this is deliberate, because “Semi-Charmed Life” is actually a simulation of shaking drug addiction, registering as fun and good times at first before the spark fades and you’re left with a feeling of nothingness. I suppose there’s enough here that supports that claim, but nothing says that they’ve failed at communicating this message quite like it showing up in ads for a Winnie the Pooh joint. I get this is supposed to be subversive and that means it isn’t supposed to be super-obvious, but they don’t do enough to hint at a double meaning within the work itself; remove Word of God and it just registers as a song that ends weaker than it starts. I’m honestly not sure anyone would have figured out this song is supposed to have a deeper meaning if the band had not explicitly spelled it out, and that doesn’t speak well for the music.

What’s worse is that whatever spark could have been here was diminished in favor of being super serious music about how bad drugs are. It’s a problem that hurts the rest of Third Eye Blind. I should not be yawning during such high energy music, but they so diminish their technical abilities with their watered down sentiments that I can’t summon any degree of enthusiasm for the whole thing. It’s an album that wants to capture the spirit of an ambivalent generation, and unfortunately, they succeeded.

VERDICT: DISOWN

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