One thing that impresses me about Third Eye Blind over other bands who had mid-late 90s songs with success similar to Semi-Charmed Life (these bands include Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Fastball among others) is that unlike other bands from the era, who people listen to almost strictly based on nostalgia and nothing more – though I find some of these bands, particularly Fastball and Sugar Ray to have some other very good gems in their catalogue – Third Eye Blind always managed to have an identity beyond just that one hit, along with one or two other pretty big hits, and have maintained a fan base who have followed them and kept them as one of the top rock bands since the mid-90s that modestly continues to this day with the recent release of their new (and last) full album Dopamine.
I witnessed this fact about a week and a half ago when I saw Third Eye Blind live before a sold out crowd at the same venue that Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Fastball, Vertical Horizon AND Gin Blossoms were to all play a show together a couple of years ago but had to cancel due to poor ticket sales. The reality is that there are many people who lump Third Eye Blind in with these bands. I even used to. But thankfully there are almost just as many people who see Third Eye Blind as who they are. And exactly who is that? A band that has, in five albums, defined a generation of music followers by making music dissimilar to just about everyone else who has ever held an instrument.
On Dopamine, Third Eye Blind main man Stephan Jenkins shows that he still does have an ear for those catchy pop hooks. For any who have heard leading track Everything Is Easy, you may very well agree that the song shows that Stephan has not forgotten how to make long time fans feel young again. Really, the song sounds like it could belong to the 90s but somehow it sounds as current as ever. This is something I personally felt previous album Ursa Major lacked, so already from track number one we have some improvement.
The charisma continues into Shipboard Cook, a song with questionable lyrics but musically it still shows potential for Dopamine, as does the fun upbeat title track. The momentum kind of ends after the title track with Rites of Passage. It has a somewhat catchy chorus, but there’s really nothing else special about the track and its frankly a disappointment. That’s all but confirmed every time I listen to Stephan Jenkins’ whistling after the guitar solo. Following track Back To Zero only slightly raises the momentum. It’s not a bad song like I dare say Rites of Passage is, but it lacks power where I feel it needs it. All is brought back to normal with Something In You though, when halfway through the song we get that very Third Eye Blind-like transition from soft and smooth to loud and bombastic.
The two most unique songs on Dopamine are All The Souls and Get Me Out Of Here. We’ll start with the latter, which has weird lyrics compared to the street poetry Stephan Jenkins has sprinkled on so many Third Eye Blind tracks to makes them magical, but it’s the music that does the talking on Get Me Out Of Here. Sure most of the song is a slow pop rock song much like many past Third Eye Blind greats, but it’s the breakdown halfway through the song that I boldly compare to the theatrics that made so many Queen songs the classic tracks that they are. Now with All The Souls, Third Eye Blind throws all the norms out the window. This folky acoustic track’s pop melodies are almost a guilty pleasure for how modern pop they sound, but there’s just enough Third Eye Blind here to keep fans on their feet.
The last third of Dopamine is hit or miss. I mean there are no real standout classics, but there are pretty good moments. Like how Blade has that Stephan Jenkins solo feeling that other Third Eye Blind songs, such as the fan favourite Slow Motion have had before, and for that I’m sure fans would dig it. However, Blade is hardly the next Slow Motion or Motorcycle Drive-By, but it comes from the right place in Stephan’s heart. The primarily acoustic All These Things has a poppy hook to it, but I’d have to categorize it under the songs that could have been better lyrically. Exiles is another song that would stick out more if it were a little more powerful. It’s a shame because the song is very well written and poetic, but it’s a little more forgettable than I feel it should be due to its softness and lack of a true hook. Say It is an exceptional ending to the album. They played it live when I saw them and it did sound much better live than on this album, which is saying a lot considering Stephan was not on the top of his game that night. In the end it’s a very Third Eye Blind-esque song, one that could have been written at any point in their career which is why I feel it makes for a good inclusion to Dopamine, as well as a good closer to the album. Actually I think it’s a great closer.
One thing I can’t help but notice is the lack of intensity, which I’ve mentioned twice. Even on the best songs, I feel that if they were written and recorded ten years ago they’d have much more meat to them, but this time around Stephan seems to be catering to a more pop centred safe crowd of today’s lamestream music. Fortunately the songs from Dopamine are still far more superior than the tunes played on top 40 stations and therefore it caters to both new and old fans. Of course it’s the long time devotees that will like Dopamine a lot more than someone who just might stumble across their music for the first time, although I don’t think it’s possible someone hasn’t already listened to Third Eye Blind.
Did you know Sugar Ray released an album in 2009 called Music For Cougars? Or that Smash Mouth released an album in 2012 called Magic? Probably not considering the latter didn’t even chart. But I’m sure there’s a much better chance you know Third Eye Blind just released Dopamine. None of these bands have left, but none have had the staying power that Third Eye Blind has had, and Dopamine’s chart performance is evidence of that. It’s obvious that this is not the Third Eye Blind of 1997 or 2000. Not even the Third Eye Blind of 2003. I personally find Dopamine to be better than Ursa Major, but I’m sure most fans will agree this is not the Third Eye Blind of 2009. However I still feel that everything that makes Third Eye Blind special is present on this album. I feel the catchy tunes are still ever so present, more so than on Ursa Major. It’s not their best effort but despite the low points, I can’t help but hear something special in so many songs on this album.
“Everything Is Easy” – I don’t even care how obvious this choice is. Yes I absolutely love this song and feel it’s the best song to have been released this year so far, but beyond that it’s the song that best represents Dopamine because it will show long time fans that Third Eye Blind hasn’t gone anywhere while showing new potential fans what they’ve been missing.
8 (Out of 10)
|1.||“Everything Is Easy”||3:29|
|3.||“All the Souls”||2:47|
|5.||“Rites of Passage”||4:22|
|6.||“Back to Zero”||3:29|
|7.||“Something in You”||3:21|
|8.||“Get Me Out of Here”||4:47|
|10.||“All These Things”||2:25|