Coming off the success of the multi-platinum, debut self-titled album, Third Eye Blind could have gone in several different directions. Would they crash and burn like many of their 90’s peers hitmakers that stormed onto the scene of the height of the music industry, or would they embrace the pressure and deliver a noteworthy record? Plenty has already been written about the drama and in-fighting that went on during the writing and production of their sophomore album, Blue. Yet, I’m going to focus on the music itself which by all points of merit is still pretty damn good even at 20 years of age. The album’s themes are filled with relatable concepts, ranging everywhere from teen pregnancy (“10 Days Late”), physical abuse (“Wounded”), to gushing feelings of love (“Deep Inside Of You”).
Stephan Jenkins (vocals, rhythm guitar) would likely be the first to admit that he is surprised by Third Eye Blind’s longevity to this day. After having released a new and solid record in Screamer earlier this year, who would have thought that Jenkins would still be talking about the Third Eye Blind “brand” in 2019. Their self-titled record has stood the test of time to this day, but I still find myself coming back to Blue just as often. Blue was the record that proved that Third Eye Blind were far from a flash in the pan of 90’s lore, and instead established the franchise of 3EB.
Kicking off the set with their lead single, “Anything,” was as good of a choice as any by the label to represent the new album. It’s a two-minute blast of 90’s rock filled with great vocals, even better guitars, and is radio-friendly given its brevity. Jenkins wastes little time painting with the album’s concept in the opening lyrics when he sings, “Anything for you / Turn my castles blue.” The second single, “Never Let You Go,” is a pretty straight forward, guitar-driven pop-rock that seemed destined for radio success.
The earlier songs of “Wounded” and “10 Days Late” are two of the better songs Third Eye Blind have ever written, even to this day. Starting with “Wounded,” Jenkins outlines a story of someone dealing with an abusive partner as he sings, “The guy who put his hands on you / Has got nothing to do with me / And the bruises that you feel will heal, and I hope you’ll come around / ‘Cause we’re missing you / And you used to speak so easy / Now you’re afraid to talk to me / It’s like walking with the wounded.” The overall tone of the song feels so strong in large part to the great guitar licks from Kevin Cadogan, who shows a ton of restraint in the opening verses that allow Jenkins to tell the story effectively. “10 Days Late,” is a more up-tempo rocker that doesn’t require a gradual build-up to be just as compelling as its predecessor. It also features a great bass line from Arion Salazar, who feeds a ton of personality into the third single.
The middle of record never really loses focus with the power pop of “Never Let You Go,” “Deep Inside of You,” and the guitar bliss of “1000 Julys.” If the record has any faults, it’s not felt during this section of songs that each could have been released as an introductory single to the album in their own right.
What follows these tracks is when the band truly hit some magical moments in their experimentation. Songs like, “An Ode To Maybe” begins the transition from Jenkins’ being a heartbroken singer-songwriter on the self-titled album, to the pompous rock star he likely sought out to be in the first place. When he sings on the second verse, “If I could bottle my hopes in a store-bought scent / They’d be nutmeg peach, and they’d pay the rent / And I’d ride a horse, and I’d teach a course / On how I go to be a star crossed pimp,” it was clear that there was no turning back from that persona.
The back half of the album gets a little stranger, a little more complicated, and was a glimpse into the creative minds of the four band members. “The Red Summer Sun” features some trademark “doo do doo’s” and more brilliant musicianship all around. The underrated player on this song is drummer Brad Hargreaves, who has some incredible fills, especially on the brazen bridge. “Camouflage” features some rarely-used vocal effects on Jenkins’ whereas “Farther” was pure pop bliss.
The closing tracks of songs like, “Slow Motion (Instrumental)” with its controversially removed gun-violence themed lyrics at the label’s discretion, after the Columbine school shooting around the same time of the album’s release, only added more to allure surrounding this fantastic sophomore effort. Other songs such as “Darkness” are as brilliant of a song to be found on any of the 90’s band discographies, whereas “Darwin” was as weird as any song that 3EB has released to date.
Overall, this record had a lot going for it upon its release 20 years ago and still does have a lot going for it as I write about it today. The circumstances surrounding the early demise of the Cadogan/Jenkins relationship could be hashed out for weeks and years on end, yet looking back on their combined work hopefully leaves more warm feelings than hatred. Jenkins even went as far as to rank Blue as his favorite in the Third Eye Blind catalog, and although I slightly disagree with his assessment compared to the debut, Blue is definitely a record that stands the test of time.