The mystery, indecisiveness, and possible controversy surrounding Third Eye Blind’s sixth studio album only added to the allure and likability of Screamer. In many interviews, front-man Stephan Jenkins went as far as to say that there would never be a sixth studio album from Third Eye Blind, which came as a big shock to those who have been following the band during this decade. Coming off multiple successful tours with their name at the top of the bill, Third Eye Blind has done plenty to remove themselves from the pack of 90’s bands who could only dream of Jenkins and his bandmates’ sustained success. Dopamine, their last proper full-length was released in 2015, and they followed that record up with an equally charming collection of cover songs affectionately titled Thanks For Everything. With such an ominous EP title, one could only think Jenkins was living up to his word about hanging up the studio production output from the Third Eye Blind moniker. Luckily for us, Jenkins and 3EB’s long-time drummer Brad Hargreaves, guitarists Kryz Reid and Colin Creev, and bassist Alex LeCavilier collectively came together to deliver Screamer.
Led by the title track that features some cheerleader-esque guest vocals from Alexis Krauss, the scene is set with lyrics such as, “Get your carts ready / Tell your go-carts go / Ready for a breakthrough manic episode / You’re so damn beautiful / Come and take over let’s take control.” It fits the mood like a great precursor of what’s to come in this collection of eleven songs that range from breezy to straight-forward rockers, all the way to chill summertime vibes. Jenkins sounds as re-energized as he’s ever been with confidently sung vocals and a swagger that most “rockstars” would love to exemplify. Third Eye Blind take us on quite the journey from the stellar lead single even as it evaporates too quickly into the second track, and current single, “The Kids Are Coming (To Take You Down).” It’s in this song that the album takes more shape and direction into what the band were going for on this effort. Having seen the band live more times than I can remember, this track is destined to make its way early into their sets in support of Screamer. It’s not only a great choice of a second single but also offers the band’s best chance of having another modern rock hit.
“Ways” follows the brilliant duo of opening tracks with some self-aware lyrics from Jenkins when he sings with bravado, “Princess in the wedding / Titties and the bellies / Well, would they walk with me? / Since I’m the first motherfucker to the cheese / And I’m so eager to please.” It fits the “Summer God” label from their past tour moniker with Jimmy Eat World, and showcases Jenkins as a musician as comfortable in his skin as they come.
“Tropic Scorpio” fits the vein of other Third Eye Blind songs from this decade, such as “Shipboard Cook,” and rock with just as much immediacy as the band were likely going for here. Third Eye Blind are at their best when they understand how each of their unique parts that the band members bring to the table mesh together, and they certainly don’t try to make the same record twice. In fact, this particular album is as diverse as Third Eye Blind has arguably ever been.
Other songs such as summer-drenched vibes of “Walk Like Kings,” showcase a Rockstar happy to let his personality take center stage. As much as the verses lyrical content made me uncomfortable at first listen, the shimmering chorus of “Sparkle across the sea just like diamonds / They’re all for you and me, let’s go find them / And live in the lux life / It’s only gonna last for a moment / So walk like kings / And never say sorry,” shows that the band, and Jenkins in particular, are making no apologies for who they are and what they have done. This punk rock attitude of “take it or leave it” never comes across as cliché; instead, it’s more of a badge of honor that the band proudly wear.
The reflective and sexy “Turn Me On,” finds Jenkins connecting with his female-adoring fans and likely maintaining his persona as someone who has never been afraid to express exactly how he’s feeling. Other songs in the back half such as the repetitive “Got So High,” never really connected with me. However, there are plenty of new and inventive elements found in the record to keep the die-hard 3EB fans interested.
These redeeming moments come quickly in songs such as “Who Am I,” which the band felt strongly enough to include as a bonus acoustic track at the end of the record. The heart-on-my-sleeve and reflective lyrics such as “Well these signs tell me panic’s setting in / Isn’t it time, time to live again? / I still want you to approve of me / ‘Cause these days won’t be as bad as the ones you love me / Now I’m waiting for the feeling of living” are delivered as an anthem to the unwanted. Jenkins is as human as the rest of us; he just writes much better hooks than the majority of the 90’s bands still trying to make it big again.
The closing trio of “Light It Up,” “2X Tigers,” and “Take A Side” are as close as we’re going to get of the epic run of brilliant songs found on the self-titled debut’s ending. “Light It Up” is a Third Eye Blind song, through and through, and summarizes everything that I love about this band. “2X Tigers” features some rap-styled beats, vocal effects such as autotune, and a few other surprises that the group were tinkering with in the studio. Lastly, “Take A Side” is the long-needed, acoustic-driven song that fans have been clamoring for since the days of Out of the Vein. It doesn’t disappoint and tells the naysayers to fuck all the way off if you can’t get down with a little variety in their Third Eye Blind catalog.
Had Dopamine been the closing chapter in the Third Eye Blind saga, I would have been perfectly okay with how their artistic chapter wrapped up. However, Screamer is an album that shows that the band has plenty of life left in them, reminds long-time fans of the beauty and brilliance of an album with well-balanced pop songs, and showcases one of my generation’s best remaining rockstars at the top of his game. Third Eye Blind may not be for everyone, and that’s okay. They are the band I have grown up with, and for that, I will forever be thankful.