“Well the truth is, I’m just glad I’m here,” Stephan Jenkins exclaims on the opening of “Ways,” the third song on the upcoming album Screamer (due out this Friday, October 18th via Megaforce Records). Like most of us, I grew up listening to Third Eye Blind — hearing them on at every turn and constantly singing the hook of “Semi-Charmed Life.” It was impossible to not have this band in your head. They went through some tumultuous times in their career, but have always found a way to persevere and come out the other side. So then Jenkins sings out that he’s glad he’s here, it’s hard not to believe him — and hard to not be glad he’s here, too.
Jenkins could certainly be classified as one of the most prolific songwriters in alternative rock, depending on who you ask. But it’s hard to deny the success, given that he has written or at least co-wrote all of Third Eye Blind’s biggest singles, which includes “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Jumper,” “How’s It Going to Be,” “Losing a Whole Year,” “Never Let You Go,” and more.
In an interview earlier this summer, Jenkins was doing an interview about Screamer and shared that, sound wise, “Nothing’s safe, no smoothed-out edges, nothing like that at all. It’s like the whole thing was ‘keep the edge, keep it weird,” and that’s certainly what happened — in an overall positive way.
Screamer opens with the relentless title-track, one that is as high energy as it is littered with some political undertones. Jenkins has never been one to shy away from voicing his opinion on politics and social issues, and a “screamer,” he explains in an interview with Nicole Karlis summarizes the consequences of the Trump administration. “I see women — young women — in this being unapologetic about their voices and sexuality, and I find that inspiring, and I find that connected to this punk-rock stance of, like, ‘You don’t tell me the manners — I tell you,” he tells Karlis. The track features Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells, and you can hear some of her influence on top of some of the less-polished sound that Jenkins mentioned Third Eye Blind was aiming for. If you’re looking for a track that showcases the band’s high-energy with modern influence, “Screamer” is a hell of a track that’s right up your alley.
Third Eye Blind aren’t quick to let that energy fade, as “The Kids Are Coming (To Take You Down) and “Ways” follow, delivering a 1-2-and-3 punch that their most-popular records have delivered. Take your own personal favorite, whether it’s the iconic three-track opening run their debut record gave us (“Losing a Whole Year” to “Narcolepsy” to “Semi-Charmed Life”) or the underrated three-track opening run of Out of the Vein (“Faster” to “Blinded” to “Forget Myself”), regardless Screamer certainly deserves a seat at the table. “The Kids Are Coming” is the most upbeat track on the album, driven by angst that deals with the rebellion of the youth as they seek out their own path in the world, one that’s almost as much of a warning as it is an anthem as the pre-chorus warns “And the kids are coming to take you down / and the kids are coming to take you down, down, down” before the chorus moves to inspire those kids, with Jenkins proclaiming “I’m beginning to think we’re getting stronger / finally show our teeth.”
“Ways” is part of that opening run, but it also serves the role on Screamer of shifting towards the mid-tempo Third Eye Blind singles. Lead by slick guitar-work, we get a song that has summer, beach-y vibes written all over it, with lyrics that are just that right level of quirk from Jenkins, with “Princess in the wedding / titties and the bellies” getting rhymed in the second verse. “Tropic Scorpio” holds at a steady mid-tempo pace immediately following, and is also probably exactly what you might expect Third Eye Blind to sound like in 2019. It’s a solid alternative rock song, even if Jenkins does declare that he’s a “punk-rock motherfucker” in the second verse of the track. While on the topic of this style of song, it’s worth pointing out that “Walk Like Kings” certainly fits the mold. This is a track that serves as a (sort of) love-y, endearing type song, detailing the relationship between two people that may have not seen each other for a while, but with that flame never burning out. The first verse details their reunion type encounter, delivering a sense of urgency as they leave their self-described G550 and skip the pleasantries to rush up to their hotel room together. If you’re looking for a song that describes seemingly casual sex behind the mask of a sharp hook, here’s your song. This song alone shows how this band can tell even the most lustful type stories with their brand of alternative-rock, and do it wonderfully.
While the album slows downs down and sort of leaves us with some tracks that, while not entirely skippable, may not get returned to as much in the future. I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up “Got So High” and “Who Am I.” The former is one that takes you on one hell of a musical journey, starting and stopping a few times, with the last 30 seconds or so effectively being an interlude on the album with some “do-do-do’s” from Jenkins. But that, chorus — “I got so high, I fell in love with all the world and the sky up above” — try not to sing a long with that after a few listens. It’s a chorus that shows Jenkins and co. can still write big choruses with hooks that will pop up in the back of your head at random times throughout the day. The latter of the two songs mentioned is a heart-breaking ballad that details the falling out of a relationship, with one party still seeking that attention and validation from the other party that perhaps even initiated the break-up, with Jenkins crying out “I still want you to approve of me / ’cause these days won’t be as good as the ones you loved me.”
The next song worth breaking up is the experimental “2X.” You have to admire the band for testing out new sounds, when they could just make an album full of big alternative-rock singles — but some things you hope are left alone after the effort. The song is an R&B-tinged, auto-tuned song that sounds like it could have been on any-given Myspace band’s page in 2010 after hearing “Love Like Woe” for the first time. Maybe there will be an audience for it, but it’s also more likely to slip into the void of Third Eye Blind songs that don’t get much attention — most of which you could argue deserve more attention, but “2X” is not necessarily going to be one of them. Luckily, Third Eye Blind rebounds quickly with “Take A Side,” which is a solid acoustic song that is lyrically-driven and closes out the album. It almost feels like it could turn into a “Motorcycle Drive-By” type single but never quite gets there — which isn’t necessarily a negative; after all, we can always go back and listen to that single if we are looking for that type of sound.
Overall, Screamer is a perfect addition to the discography of Third Eye Blind and example of how they’ve succeeded for so long. For a band that never fails to experiment with each record, that continues here. The record starts out fast and loud like some of their bigger, more well-known singles, but as it goes on you see that loud-ness start to dwindle. It would be naive to call the energy fading, as the energy never fades — instead, it’s used differently and the result is more mid-tempo type singles, which is where Third Eye Blind has always creatively shined. Whether you like their upbeat stuff or their slower stuff (or both), Screamer has you covered for a few songs.
At the end of the day, we should all just be glad that Third Eye Blind is still here and pumping out solid tunes 20+ years into their career.