Spending the whole goddamn day in bed.
It took until just this past week before I ever found out, though. After I quit listening to that mix CD, I didn't think about them all that much. Then a message board I read constantly (and am starting to mention pretty regularly in this blog) had a thread about 90s alternative rock, in which several people sang the praises of Third Eye Blind, their first album in particular. Some felt that they'd never done another good album, while others appreciated their second album but thought the third one was bad, but all agreed on the quality of the first one. I finally broke down and obtained a copy. At first I didn't really listen to any of the songs but "God of Wine", but I finally played the whole thing a couple days ago while cleaning my room, and I loved it. I've been listening to it constantly ever since.
"God of Wine" is the last song on the album, and I expected it to be the best, but it's actually rivaled by the opening track, "Losing A Whole Year". This song gives us a more uptempo version of what "God of Wine" already accomplished, creating a catchy rock song with the slightly sad sound that I associate with minor chords. The chorus is based around the line "I remember when we used to spend the whole goddamn day in bed", which makes me think of the honeymoon period at the beginning of relationships, when nothing seems as important as spending time with one's new love interest. It never lasts, though, and this song takes place at the end of a relationship. The narrator laments the changes his girlfriend has gone through, feels that she's less real now than when they started dating, and wonders if he even wants to continue bothering to keep up the relationship. The lyrical sentiment is not too far from Avril Lavigne's "Complicated", but with the crucial difference that Stephen Jenkins' lyrics are well-written and evocative, instead of riddled with cliches like Lavigne's. The idea of "losing a whole year" because the work he's put into a relationship has turned out to be wasted effort is something we've all felt at one point or another.
There are a bunch of other really good songs on the album too. "Narcolepsy" and "Graduate" are both guitar-driven rockers that use distortion to add weight to the melodies on display. "London" is faster than anything else here, almost punkish, and quite enjoyable. The album lags towards the middle, but if anything I think this is a result of it having too many songs. There are 14, it's almost an hour long, and tracks 7 through 9 are all very similar. If two of those songs had been left as B-sides, it probably would have helped album flow. But that's not a major problem.
I had wondered if "Semi-Charmed Life" would sound better, more natural, in the context of the entire album, but I still find it kind of annoying, and it definitely sticks out like a sore thumb. The production used on that song is very different from that on the rest of the album, with drum machine beats augmenting the real drums, and a completely different (much wimpier) guitar tone used through most of the song. What I keep imagining when I hear this song in the context of the entire album is a record company higher-up saying, "This is the single, so let's go back in the studio and beef it up." It could have been a really good song if they'd left it alone, but as it is it's well on the way to being ruined. "How's It Gonna Be" is still every bit as bad as I remember it being, too, but it sounds less like the result of studio trickery and more like a band attempt to write a song that would play well on the radio. Where "Semi-Charmed Life" seems built around the core of an honest attempt at writing a good song, "How's It Gonna Be" doesn't seem like it ever had any honesty to it at all, seems like a song with its genesis in rational thought and not feelings. This is probably why I hate it the most of anything on the album.
One thing I will give Third Eye Blind: even when their music is lackluster, the lyrics are always interesting and well-written. I used to hate "Semi-Charmed Life" most of all for its lyrics, with their unflinching and seemingly positive portrayal of crystal meth usage (it was funny to me how it took six months of radio play before the stations in my town woke up enough to bleep out the name of the drug). There are some brilliant lines in that song, though; I really can't fuck with "the four right chords can make me cry". Additionally, the fate of the meth-addicted girl, the one who said "I want something else to get me through this semi-charmed life" in that song's lyrics, does not seem promising. I may be reading too much into the parallels between different songs on this record, but I get the sense that a lot of these songs are the story of the same couple. If this is the case, it gives added weight to the last three songs, which (other than "Losing A Whole Year") are my three favorite songs on the album anyway.
This trilogy begins with "The Background", a song about the aftermath of a relationship, long enough after the breakup that the former couple aren't talking to each other anymore, but soon enough that the male protagonist still walks around thinking of his ex all the time. "The plans I make still have you in them," he says, as he talks about the guys at the liquor store asking where the girl he used to get drunk and fight with is. There's an ominous note, especially when considered in light of all the talk of drugs that permeates the earlier tracks on the album, when he says "I don't see you anymore, since the hospital." Is the girl dead? This song isn't saying. It seems obvious that the drug problems got so bad that she ended up with health problems, and this was enough to drive him away. He still misses her, though, and this is reflected in the downbeat, emotional sound of the song, which replaces the schmaltz of "How's It Gonna Be" with riffs that really do convey a feeling.
The next song, "Motorcycle Drive-By", is still quiet and slow, at least at the beginning, but seems much more hopeful. This is a song that talks about a moment at the end of a relationship that one doesn't see mentioned in song too often; the times you hang out with your ex a few months after you've broken up and you still don't know how to act like friends and not lovers. The narrator of the song obviously still feels very strongly about his ex, but he's trying to move on. "We'll be friends again, and I'll get over you," he promises her. The fact that elsewhere, he says of her, "Careening through the universe, your axis on a tilt, you’re guiltless and free. I hope you take a piece of me with you," makes the listener wonder how easy it'll be for him to keep his promise... but we all know how that goes. It's always hard.
Finally, we have "God of Wine". This song is still just as awesome musically as it always was, but the lyrics are even more affecting in the context of the rest of the album. If "Motorcycle Drive-By" represented hope for the former lovers to become friends after some time has passed, "God of Wine" is the flip side of this hope, the narrator's sincere worry at what will become of his former girlfriend. She's survived the hospital, but if the meth is out of her life the wine is definitely not. The narrator's still trying to be there for her, but as we all know, once one is no longer playing the role of significant other, one's capacity to be there for people is significantly reduced, and even trying to be there can get awkward. He's still trying, but he knows it's futile. "I see you searching for something I could never give you", he says, then follows that with an even harder realization: "There's someone who understands you more than I do." This is the note on which we leave the entire album; a feeling of hope for the one you still care about, overlaid by a greater feeling of failure, of having tried to help in vain. The cumulative effect of these last three songs is positively crushing. It always feels good to identify with songs about emotional pain, to know that at least you're not alone, but at the same time it can feel like the worst thing ever.
This is how life has been for me lately, though. Bad feelings are lingering from relationships I thought I'd be over by now, and new friendships that I thought would last are already souring. I'm uncomfortable with admitting just how much of it's my fault, but it's true. I've been playing this album a lot, not even skipping the few songs on it I can't stand. Even "How's It Gonna Be" has a little bit of catharsis to provide for me. The last three have a ton.
Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow.