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Third Eye Blind

Musically nothing startling or even prolific, lying between The STEVE MILLER BAND and The SPIN DOCTORS, San Francisco’s THIRD EYE BLIND had a certain je ne sais quoi in their acoustic alt-rock/post-grunge approach, which helped the band achieve some kind of steady fanbase. They’ll forever be remembered by the majority of outsiders for their initial breakthrough million-sellers, `Semi-Charmed Life’ and `How’s It Going To Be’.
Several years performing as a solo artist after garnering an English degree at the University of California in Berkeley, singer-songwriter/rhythm guitarist Stephan Jenkins decided to expand his horizons by finally forming a proper band in 1993. Unsettled at first when future SNAKE RIVER CONSPIRACY mainman Jason Slater (on bass) and Adrian Burley (drums) bailed after making a debut demo, this left only Jenkins and fellow songsmith Kevin Cadogan (lead guitar/keyboards) to rope in replacements Arion Salazar (bass/keyboards) and future SMASH MOUTH member Michael Urbano (drums); the latter had superseded Tim “Curveball” Wright, the replacement for another pit-stop sticksman Steve Bowman.
To filter attention from a plethora of similar West Coast alt-rock acts, their performances were supplemented by a candy-dispensing pinata, but for some reason jester Jenkins thought it appropriately entertaining to discharge live crickets at their NYC showcase for Clive Davis, boss of Arista Records. With Brad Hargreaves duly installed as their permanent drummer, Jenkins somehow managed to convince Epic Records executive Dave Massey to let his band open for OASIS at San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium in 1996; the quartet received adulation and were rewarded with a unique “support act” encore.
Despite their popularity spreading like wildfire, THIRD EYE BLIND still had signed no contract, but with a bidding war instigated from most majors, Jenkins and Cadogan signed a lucrative deal at Elektra Records, where it was said artistic control was in the eye of the beholder. Produced by Jenkins and Eric Valentine, 1997’s eponymous set THIRD EYE BLIND {*7} was slow-burning, not hitting its peak Top 30 position and triple-platinum figures until the aforesaid hook-laden `Semi-Charmed Life’ and `How’s It Going To Be’ climbed into the higher echelons of the charts (minor places in a less-impressed Britain). After a year and a half in the shops, sales of the set took a resurgence when the acoustic-led `Jumper’ also strode into the Top 5.
Dispatched prior to any promotional hits, sophomore set BLUE (1999) {*6} split reviewers down the middle, the group were accused of brandishing a commercial post-grunge gloss when the scene seemed to be – or should have been – grinding to a halt. One of the pretenders to the post-grunge-pop throne alongside EVERCLEAR, MATCHBOX TWENTY, MARCY PLAYGROUND et al, the album secured its Billboard Top 40 returns in its first few months, even as the belatedly-released single, `Never Let You Go’, fulfilled its Top 20 limitations early into the millennium; the FM/fireside-friendly `Deep Inside Of You’ created a little chart stir, while opener `Anything’ and the follow-on `Wounded’ might’ve been better bets to succeed.
TEB’s first album since the departure of co-writer Cadogan (replaced by Tony Fredianelli), OUT OF THE VEIN (2003) {*5} underlined a single-less band struggling to replicate the kind of immediacy which had characterised the best of their work thus far. That said, Jenkins and arena-rock tracks such as `Blinded’, `Crystal Baller’ and `Can’t Get Away’ sounded as vehement as ever in his pursuit of grandiloquent rock greatness, even if he didn’t have strong songs to go with the voice and frontman image.
Trimmed to a trio when Arion bolted, Stephan suffered the ultimate breakdown for a composer – writer’s block. Bypassing their “comeback” promo-EP featuring the track `Red Star’, the 6-year hiatus was over with the Warner Bros.-backed MegaCollider-released fourth set, the Top 3! URSA MAJOR (2009) {*6} was unleashed. Americanised and out of touch with the progress “alt-rock” combos had achieved in their wake or absence, it was a case of stop-me-if-you’ve-heard-it-all-before for the bulk of whimsical/mellow ditties from the likes of `Can You Take Me’ to `Why Can’t You Be’.
With no sign of Fredianelli, who’d bailed in 2010, the grand old Jenkins (now 50 years-old) and Hargreaves (the latter also a recruit of YEAR LONG DISASTER since 2004) were up for a fifth set, the Top 20 DOPAMINE (2015) {*5}. Joined by Kryz Reid (lead guitar), Alex LeCavalier (bass) and Alex Kopp (keyboards), there were plenty rock-pop hooks for fans to sink their teeth into. From the breezy opener `Everything Is Easy’ to the funky and part-PRINCE-like `All The Souls’, THIRD EYE BLIND were proving steadfast in their resolve to carry on regardless.
Accused of being overtly political against the Republican Party at a charity “Musicians on Call” appearance at Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in March 2016, Stephan Jenkins, and therefore his THIRD EYE BLIND, were somewhat ostracized thereafter; as evidenced on the poor chart showing of their mini-set that October: WE ARE DRUGS {*5}. Defiant and resolute in their freedom-of-speech opinions, 3EB still took time to get back into gear; the covers mini-set/EP, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING (2018) {*6}, a strident mix of eccentricities from `10’ (HAPPY DIVING), `Fuck Forever’ (BABYSHAMBLES) and `This Isn’t Our Parade’ (SANTIGOLD), to `Song To The Siren’ (TIM BUCKLEY), `Joke’ (Chastity Belt), `In The Fade’ (QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE) and `Blood Bank’ (BON IVER).
In 2019, Kopp had given way to Colin Cree V (guitar/keyboards), and a tour with JIMMY EAT WORLD was mooted.
A decade ago, THIRD EYE BLIND were a Top 3 act, however with 2019’s SCREAMER {*5} there was no sighting on the horizon for a glimpse of Top 200 status. The reasons for this commercial collapse were one for speculation, but surely fans had not totally capitulated. Then again maybe it was the threat of 3EB’s ever-impending disbandment; then again maybe it was the sugar-coated pop-rock that was miles from post-grunge or alt-rock. In essence its only saving grace was the appearance of Alexis Krauss (of Sleigh Bells) on the opening title track, or its wet-around-the-ears `”X Tigers’ and/or the co-BILLY CORGAN-enhanced composition, `Light It Up’. Next will probably be a cover of BUZZCOCKS’ `Whatever Happened To…’?
© MC Strong/MCS 1998-2004/GRD // rev-up MCS Jun2015-Nov2019

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