Prior to the June 16th release of Dopamine, Third Eye Blind and its shifting group of members (the constants being front-man, Stephan Jenkins, and drummer, Brad Hargreaves) hadn’t released a record in over six years (Ursa Major in 2009). Openly admitting that Third Eye Blind is my all-time favorite band and has been since I was in seventh grade, this obviously will not be an unbiased perspective on Dopamine as album. What I can say, as an honest fan, is that Dopamine contains some of the band’s best tracks ever and is quite possibly their best album to date.
It’s so rare that a band can create an entire album that replicates its unique sound, while also producing something so fresh and satisfying that both old fans, like myself, and new fans alike will play it on loop.
Stephan Jenkins has done it again; written poetry from the depths of his soul with bitter honesty, seemingly obscure references, and honey-sweet reminiscences. Guitarist Kryz Reid, bassist Alex LeCavalier, keyboardist Alex Kopp, and drumming master Brad Hargreaves contribute to the anomaly that is a masterpiece of both old and new sounds melded, resulting in a glorious collision that is 100% pure Third Eye Blind.
Collectively, the tracks on Dopamine are something to marvel at, both musically and lyrically. Here’s a run-down of each track and its place in the sun of 3EB’s discography.
1. Get Me Out of Here – “You’ll be the greatest rock star ever/ If you get off on loneliness, cause it’s a wilderness/It’s like wilderness/& the band says come on dude, they’re waiting up for you, they’re waiting up for you/& you’re backstage in the dark…”
GMOOH reminds me of a Queen song in that its melodramatic, heart-felt struggle sweeps you up into the opera of the song. Its pace changes jarringly, the lyrics are quick to flip emotion on its head, and one can’t help but wonder if this is a glimpse into Jenkins’ real-life experience as a multi-generational rock star.
2. Something in You – “She’s a circus girl in a shower of oranges…”
And they said you couldn’t rhyme anything with ‘oranges’! Jenkins, you tricky SOB (the rhyme he makes is with “California”). This song is heart-breakingly beautiful, and 3EB fans will recognize “something in you” as being a lyric from the band’s self-titled album in a track called “Good For You,” which proves that Jenkins is linking lyrics across albums. The song is so unique, but also so truly Third Eye Blind in its calm intro and grandiose finish. In a shower of oranges… brilliant and colorful.
3. Back to Zero – “And every morning that I let go/I’m back to zero/ And I take on a life of my own/ I’m back to zero/ And a song starts to play, back to zero/ Don’t let sorrow bring you down…”
Back to Zero has got to be my favorite song to blast from Dopamine. It is so cut-throat, agony-filled, yet steely-fisted in the genre of “Thanks A Lot” and “How’s it Gonna Be.” It’s that feeling of knowing how to relish one’s own pain, but also resolving to get “back to zero” and to let it go after a thorough self-medication. This is one of the best ever.
ALSO: Jenkins confirmed that he is not, in fact, saying anything about grilled cheese, but is actually saying “I’m gonna do it now/I’m reaching into ripped jeans…” But if you’re like me, all you can hear is grilled cheese, which is peachy.
4. All These Things – “Let that feeling born in shadow, let it make you make you strong/ And the demons you’ve got to carry, carry you on and on and on…”
Possibly the happiest track on the album, this one is a dance around in your underwear anthem, or drive with the sunroof down, face in the sun song. All these things are yours, says Jenkins about being stronger than your demons as you cruise down the road of life, with its detours, twists, and turns. It’s beautiful- a ray of sunshine on faces that have seen their fair share of shadow. Also, I love the Jackson Pollock and John Coltrane references, as I am from Wyoming and I love jazz, but all Third Eye Blind fans know what it is to find connections to Jenkins’ obscurities.
5. Exiles – “I’ll miss your sweetness & your grief/ I may be a mystery, but you were beyond belief…”
A combination of “My Time in Exile,” a little “Misfits” and a little bit of “Motorcycle Drive-by,” this song is already a favorite of older 3EB fans. Exiles is a song for those of us who are still “growing up” with Jenkins, hanging on his every word, waiting for the next adventure around the corner in these crazy lives of ours. But we are together, make no mistake. “We’ll never change, we’ll never have a home…”
6. Dopamine – “So put your hands where you want to/Start screaming across the city/ I’m naked and pretty, but I know I mean nothing/I’m just drugs to you/Still I’m jonesing like a fiend, so line me up that Dopamine…”
Jenkins is not the king of straightforward, by any means, but Dopamine is a killer title track in that it is exactly that- goes straight to the brain to release those happy vibes, even though we know we’re just the drugs in someone else’s high. It is happy, it is vibrant, it is self-aware and fierce. And hey, we get a high from Dopamine as well, right? I love this track. Line it up.
7. Shipboard Cook – “And the fear is I’m the one no matter where you are/ in this twisted, fucked up film noir/I keep hoping you will find me/ So light em up boys/ here’s to your youth/Sing loud enough til you tell the truth…”
Another one of my very favorites, its changes in tempo and biting quips are what a Third Eye Blind song should be. A little anger, an endless search, looking out across the ocean with a battered heart. The end, where Jenkins can be heard singing the song acoustic is possibly the best moment of the entire album. It is so raw, that it can’t help reach your blood.
8. All the Souls – “Oh and the camera on your cell phone screen, you miss everything…”
“All the Souls” is powerful and reminds me of “An Ode to Maybe” (one of the best songs ever), but has its own resonance in our current society. Jenkins is never out of touch with the bigger picture, and this song is one to remind us that we are part of that bigger collective of souls and misfits. “You gotta steal the time from a life that’s passing by…” because we, too, will get justice from the ground.
9. Say It – “I try to be resolute, you reduce it down to cute/I tell you you’re a coward, you say I’m a prostitute, when the mascara’s dry, I know you’ve got something to hide…”
“Say It” is perfection in that it is maddening when our language, no matter the span of our vocabulary, cannot express what we mean. Jenkins’ Twitter bio, “Wait that’s not what I meant” is a poignant echo of some of the sentiments in “Say It.” It reminds me of “Summer Town,” in that it is a continuation of that “I told you everything I knew in manic rushing line…” Poets are writers, and writers are always questioning language, challenging others to use their voice and find the words, which Jenkins always does so brilliantly. This bit of lyrics from “Say It” is a window into that intimate exchange of shifting feelings and the desire to hide what we should say. “Say what you mean/say what you mean…”
10. Blade – “You say that I’m a brute, cause I fell faster than you/But I’ve got a heart that’s true/ And there’s nothing that I wont do to get away with you…”
There are some shocking lyrics in this song, similar to “Slow Motion” and as aching as “Good Man,” and like the latter, questions what makes a good man, what makes the “company you keep.” The pain Jenkins is able to convey in these slower, haunting songs is something that soaks you to the bone and reminds you of pain in the darkest nights. This Blade, like “Sharp Knife,” cuts and leaves us bleeding, which is the melancholic goal. A beautiful melody with desperate pleas and emblematic violence, “Blade” is one of the most powerful of the album.
11. Everything is Easy – “If you want to see me, you know I’m easily found/Climb the stairs where we used to live, wrap your fist round my heart/Yeah you know how to pound pound pound…”
The first single, and definitely one of the most infectious, “Everything is Easy” felt like a defibrillator to my waiting Third Eye Blind heart… and it is perfection. In this day and age, everyone is easily found, but it’s the act of seeking them out that changes our course. The relief that is felt when we hear from those who hold our hearts and our breath, that is when everything is easy… or when a band with this level of musical and poetic skill releases an album that can be relished through and through, waiting six years seems not only worth it, but easy.
If you haven’t already, check out Dopamine because it will likely be the soundtrack of your summer(s). Thanks to Kryz, Buffalo Alex, Alex, Brad, and Stephan for something fans can love with sincerity. The consistent greatness in these tracks is remarkable, and the only thing better is hearing you all play them live. Line me up that Dopamine again and again.