People are often surprised when I tell them I’m a huge Third Eye Blind fan. For some reason, it’s hard for them to understand why I’m so attached to a band that is mostly known as a few-hit wonder (“Semi-Charmed Life” of course, but I’d say “How’s It Gonna Be”, “Jumper” and “Never Let You Go” were pretty big hits as well), but to me they are band of incredible talent and amazing songs. Their first three albums (S/T, Blue, Out of the Vein) are among my favourite albums ever, and would probably all make the Top 10 if I made a list. Aside from Oasis, The Beatles, and Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind are my favourite band. And even among those bands I just listed, Third Eye Blind are special because I love every song they’ve ever put out. Every. Single. One. Even their unreleased demos are classics in my world. Their 3rd album “Out of the Vein” is a perfect record, and the two before are it are pretty darn close.
The importance I attach to Third Eye Blind’s music makes listening to their new album Dopamine a hard nut to crack. The thing is, I don’t feel I’ve “learned” how to listen to new 3eb music. Their albums have been so few and far between that in the interim the existing albums have taken on a special place in the pantheon of my life. So when a new album comes along, it’s like a stranger who’s trying to hang out with me and my good buddies. Who are you and what are you doing here, dude?
It’s been six years since 3eb’s last album Ursa Major, and it was a six year wait before that. This is 3eb’s fifth album. To give you some perspective on that, Oasis’ fifth record came out in 2002, Jimmy Eat World’s fifth came out in 2004, Radiohead released their fifth record back in 2001. Every band writes and makes music at their own pace, but the wait between Third Eye Blind albums has always been excruciatingly long; so much so that sometimes I forget that they are still an active, touring band and as capable of making new music as anyone else. So listening to new 3eb music is a somewhat strange experience.
I’ll get to the actual album in a second, but one more bit of context: I enjoyed the band’s fourth effort Ursa Major, an album that is divisive among fans. The album overall isn’t a classic like the first three but it has some majorly strong tracks. The opening trio of “Can You Take Me”, “Don’t Believe A Word”, and “Bonfire” is an awesome rock triple threat well worth the price of admission alone, and the rest of the album is solid too. Since then, the band has experienced a number of lineup changes, with singer Stephen Jenkins and drummer Brad Hargreaves being the constants. Guitarist Tony Fredianelli left the band after Ursa, he himself replaced original guitarist Kevin Cadogan, and since then the band has employed axe man Kryz Reid. Both Fredianelli and Cadogan were essential parts of the 3eb songwriting machine along with Jenkins, and both stood out in their own ways. This is our first time hearing Reid on record.
And it’s with that in mind that we now look at Dopamine. From the first few listens it’s clear that the guitars are less present on this record, whether it be intentional or not. The four previous Third Eye Blind albums have always jumped out of the speakers right out of the gate (“Losing A Whole Year”, “Anything”, “Faster”, “Can You Take Me”); this album kicks off with the much more subtle, retro feeling “Everything Is Easy”, which is a song that took a while to grow on me but is now stuck in my brain. I can’t say the album ever takes off in the “rock” department like past efforts, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Reid does have some standout moments here, and I hope he gets more chances to shine in the future. I’m a firm believer that if you are a true fan of a band, you will go on whatever journey they want you to.
And I’m down with this journey so far! The album does get a little lighter and more piano driven in the latter half, but the trademark 3eb is still in here. “Dopamine”, “Rites of Passage” and “Something In You” all have the same punch of the previous records, while songs like “Back To Zero” and “Shipboard Cook” are more laid back and ambient. “All The Souls” is a crazy piano driven pop tune that is a new sound for the band, one that has gotten stuck in my brain. And as I said, the album does slow down towards the end, similar to the first record. “Get Me Out of Here”, “Blade” and “Exiles” all explore a more keys-driven sound for the band instead of guitars, but as usual it’s Stephen Jenkins’ lyrics and his emotional delivery that sell these songs. And he puts it all out there on this record, and fans wouldn’t expect any less.
It’s strange listening to a new Third Eye Blind album but it’s still great to have the band around in 2015, forging new sounds and moving into the future. It took a while, but Dopamine is a great addition to the 3eb catalog. Jenkins has said this will be their final album, instead opting to focus on singles in the future. Whatever the format, having Third Eye Blind be part of the soundtrack of my life over the span of 3 decades is always pretty damn special.
Dopamine is available on CD and all fine online retailers. Check out the first single “Everything Is Easy” and their wicked version of Beyonce’s “Mine”: