Third Eye Blind

Blue

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    6
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Of all the second-wave post-grunge bands from 1997, Third Eye Blind cultivated the most dedicated fan base. Sure, Matchbox 20 sold more records, but for TEB devotees, the San Franciscan band carried the torch originally lit by such breakthrough alt-rock acts as U2 and INXS -- big, glossy bands that unabashedly celebrated both hooks and rock classicism. Under the direction of Stephan Jenkins, Third Eye Blind celebrated these same virtues, but since they arrived at a time when there were a lot of glossy, even slick, bands marketed as alternative rock, it's easy to see why many observers believed TEB were no different than the legions of post-grunge rockers who dominated the charts that year. By the 1999 release of Blue, the group's second album, many of their peers from 1997 had faded away. Jenkins must have been aware of the fleeting nature of fandom in the '90s, since he pushes his band hard throughout the album. It's as if he's trying to shake the ghost of "Semi-Charmed Life," the ingratiatingly hummable hit that gave TEB success but pegged them, in many observers' eyes, as a bubblegum one-hit wonder. Blue is certainly somber and serious, even with its moments of levity. Almost too much so. TEB sound a little strained when they earnestly try to rock, and the same problem occasionally plagues their slower songs, though they do sound more self-confident there. This problem surfaces because they sound natural when they're a little loose; at that point, they're not too self-conscious to avoid hooks, which they seem to do quite often on Blue. While this self-consciousness mars Blue, it doesn't ruin it, because it lifts often enough (on "Wounded," "An Ode to Maybe," "Anything," and "Never Let You Go," the album's highlight), and because it announces that they're stronger and more serious than many of their post-grunge peers. It also illustrates what TEB truly excel at -- big, glossy alt-pop in the tradition of U2 and INXS. There's not quite enough of it this time around to make Blue the equal of its predecessor, but it should be enough to please devoted fans.

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