It’s exceedingly difficult for a band to come back after a lengthy time off and release a record that satisfies long-time fans. An extended break can be wrought with drama, personnel issues, creative droughts and other unsavory circumstances, and those can sometimes affect the quality of the music once the band emerges from the darkness once again.
With Third Eye Blind, legal issues and personnel changes are par for the course. Their new album Dopamine, released last week, is just the fifth in the band’s tumultuous history (and first since 2009’s Ursa Major)…and it’s quite good.
During the time off, Stephan Jenkins, drummer Brad Hargreaves and their new backing musicians took time sifting through song fragments and demos to create new material. What results is a collection of songs that, while sometimes veering a bit away from the high-energy guitar-driven rock that exemplified 1990s’ hits such as Graduate, Never Let You Go and Semi-Charmed Life, serves as a fine complement to their catalog.
With this band, extended breaks are the norm. Jenkins and his revolving door of band mates often let years pass without much of anything in terms of ‘activity’, prompting fans to wonder if the band will ever be heard from again. Well, they’re definitely not done right now, especially with a big summer tour going on and this record having dropped after years of waiting.
For longtime fans, a few songs in particular from Dopamine should strike a chord: Shipboard Cook adopts the same ‘quiet/loud’ dynamic that permeated the second half of 1997’s cult classic self-titled record, while Jenkins’ delivery sometimes calls to mind the fan favorites Motorcycle Drive By and Wounded (both in his lyrics and the structure of the song). In fact, Jenkins’ vocals sound excellent throughout the record.
While some of these songs do serve as odes to 3EB’s classic material, they manage to do so with a starkly new approach, as well: this is a pop/rock record, no two ways around it. Lead single Everything is Easy puts that on display nicely, as does the bouncy and David Bowie-quoting Rites of Passage (with a sped-up drum rhythm and Jenkins’ talk/rap vocals).
But, as always, it’s with the more mellow, melancholy songs that Jenkins and 3EB’s sounds really shine. Back to Zero, specifically, could be a monstrous FM radio hit if the band plays its cards right. Shimmery guitars swirl around Jenkins’ voice as he details yet another troubled life story, and the overall feel of the song is haunting, familiar and infectious.
Other standout mellow songs include Something in You (sample lyric: I want to find that all the things your chaos brings/Something in you I believe in), Blade (somewhat of a callback to Blue’s Slow Motion), and Exiles (one of the album’s strongest compositions).
Album closer Say It caps things off with a bang, Jenkins’ repeated demands to ‘Say it, say it, say it’ echoing in your head long after the song ends.
Six years is a long time to wait for new music, but Third Eye Blind returned with a batch of songs that should please most fans…and even if their mainstream popularity has passed, that’s no reason to overlook this album as just another ‘late era record’ – as it should stand up very well alongside their previous four albums.
For more on the band and their tour, check the links below.