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Looking back at Third Eye Blind’s debut album

By Ansharah Shakil, April 20 2024—

The dubious and disorderly formation of American rock band Third Eye Blind and its revolving, controversial line-up originated in the 90s and continues today with a current tour. In 1997, Third Eye Blind released their self-titled debut album on Apr. 8. A bridge between the cultural prevalence of the grunge scene and the upcoming pop sensation, Third Eye Blind received acclaim at the time of release and spent even more time on the charts a year after. Nearly 30 years later, it remains one of the seminal albums of the era, with an appeal that rings true and timeless. 

It’s difficult to argue for a “best” song on Third Eye Blind, but album opener “Losing a Whole Year” is without a doubt a contender. Bouncing back and forth between Kevin Cadogan’s fervent guitars and Stephan Jenkins’s hoarse vocals, it’s a captivating tug-of-war with an irresistible chorus. “Losing a Whole Year” captures the contradictions at the heart of the album, alternating between careless arrogance and vulnerable, universal human emotion. 

The lead single “Semi-Charmed Life” is the song the band is most known for and received extensive rock radio play, despite its explicit depictions of casual sex and crystal meth. With its Lou-Reed-inspired “doo-doo” refrain and unforgettable, bright guitar riff, “Semi-Charmed Life” feels like a contagious high, a breath of fresh air. It’s no wonder it was a breakout hit alongside fellow singles “How’s It Going to Be”, with its nostalgic autoharp chimes, and “Jumper,” whose compassionate lyrics balance its darker themes with its hopeful ones just like its steady drums balance the rough guitar and screech of the vocals. 

In the marching beat of the track “London”, Jenkins sings “the residue is jealous” and carries the last word right into the next line, giving it two meanings: “the residue is jealousy” and “the residue is jealous / see me on the dark side of your mind.” It’s a small, brilliant moment that tugs at you when you’re listening and doesn’t let you go. There are a million similar moments in tracks like “Narcolepsy” — when the drums kick in, when the lyrics get progressively more intense, the guitar solo two minutes in.

The last four songs of the album share an unexpected, quieter, gut-wrenching quality. The gorgeous intimacy of “I Want You,” with its earnest, slightly nonsensical plea to “send me all your vampires,” is more of a love song than any other song on the album. The painfully honest lyrics and melodic bassline of “The Background” and the evocative, imagery-rich “Motorcycle Drive By” feel transcendent, while “God of Wine” is a breathtaking, heartbreaking exploration of addiction. Its guitar and vocals are delicately woven together like gossamer. 

“God of Wine” is the perfect way to close an album that is passionate, messy and as bold and unforgettable as its red-toned album cover. In “Graduate”, the band asked, “Will this song live on long after we do?” Third Eye Blind isn’t dead yet, but it’s safe to say that their debut record will remain ever-lasting.

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