In 1997, Third Eye Blind, a band that until then the world knew little if not nothing about, released the catchier-than-common-cold hit, “Semi-Charmed Life.” Millions of people were driving around blasting the song through their speakers while singing along to the do-do-dos. Because of the radio edit, listeners had no idea they were singing along about oral sex, crystal meth and never being satiated. “Semi-Charmed Life” soared to number four on the U.S. charts and became the most popular modern rock track of ’97.
Third Eye Blind had much more to offer than one hit—it was packed with them. The second single off the album was “Graduate.” The song was featured in the classic Jennifer Love Hewitt and Seth Green film Can’t Hardly Wait and held lyrics about male prostitution: “To the bastard talking down to me/Your whipping boy calamity.” Jenkins clarifies this reference: “It’s basically because being a male prostitute is a metaphor for how we’ve all felt like when we’re doing something that’s way below our station in life.” How wrong we were to think it’s about ending your education.
Third Eye Blind also had “How’s It Going to Be,” the slow-jam that could theme every ending friendship or chapter of life. Jenkins said the song came to life when guitarist, Kevin Cadogan was playing an antique autoharp. “The lyrics really came out of that very quickly,” Jenkins reflects. “It deals with a question that we ask ourselves when a relationship ends: What does it mean? It means you are no longer intimate, and the transition to acquaintances is a brutal one. It reminds us of all the things ending. “How’s it gonna be/When you don’t know me?” There’s not an answer to that question.”
On failing relationships is “Losing a Whole Year.” It’s the first track on the album and begins with the angst driven line “I remember you and me you used to spend the whole goddamned day in bed.” The song trails through a tunneling relationship that was essentially a waste of time. It was released as a single in 1998 and reached number 13 on the Billboard charts.
“Jumper” was the final single off the self-titled album. The track was inspired from a story the band’s manager had mentioned about an adolescent friend who was gay. “He went to a conservative school in San Diego [with] all sons of military types. Being gay was just not acceptable. He offed himself—he jumped off a bridge.”
However, “Jumper” is also about Jenkins’ own childhood. Jenkins grew up poor in a wealthy neighborhood with divorced parents. He suffered from dyslexia and ADD. “I carried all these things with me. One afternoon I had this epiphany. I said, ‘You know what? I don’t have it all together. I come from stuff that was really difficult, and that’s me. That’s who I am.’ I embraced that.”
Among the chart-topping singles are intricately written songs spat by Jenkins’ quick tongue, such as “Narcolepsy.” It begins as subdued song with a swaying guitar riff and abruptly dives into a hard-hitting rock anthem. The song was molded after Cadogan’s strange dream experiences. He felt like his mind would wake up but not his body. “I was waking up but not really waking up, and I was stuck in this paralyzed state, and I was sort of drowning, I felt like I was dying really.”
Third Eye Blind ends on a softer note. “Motorcycle Drive By” is an acoustic song with Jenkins crooning about going to another city to get a girl back. It didn’t work out. Jenkins finds himself again while surfing in the ocean. The final track, “God of Wine” is an existential approach to the universe. Jenkins says, “Everything that we have, everything that we live in is pointless and crumbling. And some people are born with an innate understanding of that.” The title “God of Wine” is a reference to Bacchanalian, an Roman ancient drinking fest. So, here Jenkins is ending the album saying that you can drink away your sorrows, but even that will let you down.
Third Eye Blind’s debut is one of the most solid albums of the ’90s. Jenkins has a talent of singing the lyrics so quickly that most of us miss what the songs are really about. When decoded, these songs are so well crafted that references to literature, death and yes, even drugs, have past you by. The band has gone on to release three more albums, the most recent being Ursa Major in 2009. They’re still touring too, so if you can catch them sing your heart out along with the do-do-dos.