Third Eye Blind found themselves at a bit of a crossroads when the time came to write the follow-up to two successful records: their stunning self-titled LP and Blue. Longtime guitarist/songwriter, Kevin Cadogan, was replaced with Tony Fredianelli and Out of the Vein would be the second album in a row without an outside producer. The band’s chemistry somehow didn’t suffer on this album that most 3EB fans rank very highly when looking back on the full breadth of the band’s discography. The album was recorded at their own Mourning Wood Studios in San Francisco, and Stephan Jenkins admitted that nearly 40 songs were written during the pre-production sessions that would become their third LP. Originally called Crystal Baller, but scrapped because everyone outside of Jenkins hated the name, Out of the Vein would solidify the band as one of the premiere acts in Alternative Rock history. The record was supposed to be released in early 2002, but the mounting pressure to live up to the legacy left behind on their first two albums led to several lyric re-writes. Ultimately, these growing pains worked out in the band’s favor creatively, even as their label (Elektra Records) imploded right as Third Eye Blind would release the record. Out of the Vein may not have the sheen of Blue, or the bulletproof legacy of their self-titled debut, but it still features several great Third Eye Blind songs that have stood the test of time.
Stephan Jenkins opens album #3 with the lyrics of, “Horny and burned out now is how it always ends for me / And chemicals wear me down in your summertime bacchanalian / I saw you go faster than the morning comes / She walks away like a lady / It’s always the fallen ones / I think are always going to save me / I saw you go faster,” as he lays out his headspace for all the world the hear. “Faster” features a great, combined guitar riff from Jenkins/Fredianelli, that bounces nicely off the bass line by Arion Salazar and sets the table for the great material spaced out over the 13-track LP. “Blinded (When I See You)” was the first single to be released from the set, and it’s easy to see why. It features a bouncy guitar riff paired with soaring, picturesque vocals from Jenkins to allow the song to unfold effortlessly. The bridge is one of my favorites in the band’s discography as Jenkins croons, “Time it passes and it tells us what we’re left with / We become the things we do / Me, I’m a fool spent from defiance, yeah you got me but / I didn’t give up on you,” and it paints a vivid picture of someone head over heels in love.
The front-loaded album keeps clicking along with ease with the bass groove of “Forget Myself,” with punchy drumming from Brad Hargreaves, while “Danger” remains a staple in the band’s live set due to its manic pacing and memorable opening lyric of “I met you at the barricade.” Songs like these are the reason why fans have hung along for the ride that Third Eye Blind have taken them on for the better part of three decades. “Crystal Baller” breaks away from the frenetic pacing set with the first four songs, and instead gradually builds up to a guitar riff stomp of a chorus of, “Can we try and take the high road? / Though we don’t know where it ends / I want to be your crystal baller / I want to show you how it ends.” It’s a commendable way of looking at the world through rose-colored lenses, but not being overly pushy in its delivery.
”My Hit and Run” fits well with the gradually unfolding song structure that the band have cut their teeth to over the years, and Jenkins wordplay is top notch. Out of the Vein has a few misfires along the way like “Misfits,” and especially the near spoken-word slog found on “Self Righteous,” that I admittedly skip more often than not while listening to this record, but the material around these less memorable tracks rescues the album from straying too far off course. “Can’t Get Away” is the best song the band has written about hitting the shores, as Jenkins sails away with, “And where the ocean meets the land / Is like the sliding of your hand / Prickles up my skin / And I can feel the changing weather / While alone along that coast / Sense memories of your ghost.” The pop bliss in the choruses are easy to sing along with and leave the right taste in your mouth.
”Wake For Young Souls” is a perfect, campfire-stylized track that serves its purpose and keeps the momentum going towards arguably the band’s best deep cut, “Palm Reader,” that still gets plenty of love in 3EB lore, and it’s easy to see why. It features a great beat, memorable and well thought out lyrics, and a different guitar sound than the band had gone for before. The chorus of, “Believe in me and this lie / Tell me everything will be all right / ‘Cause it’s so good to believe / But you turn my hope into a weapon,” is pointed as it is quotable. Third Eye Blind even included this song on their hand-picked A Collection (a quasi-greatest hits and B-sides album), to give the track some extra ears on it.
The closing one-two punch of the gritty “Company,” paired with the musical storytelling of “Good Man,” showcase a band willing to take some more risks on their third LP that still sounds just as vibrant 20 years later. “Another Life” also closes out the record as a “hidden track,” while the Japanese version of Out of the Vein included the B-side “My Time In Exile” that still reverberates brilliantly to my ears today. As much as has been written of the negativity surrounding Stephan Jenkins and his inability to keep his core band intact over the years, I’d much rather talk about the beauty that comes through the speakers on the first “trilogy” of the band’s discography that I still adore.