Written by Chris Osifchin
It’s hard to believe that iconic 90s rockers like Anthony Kiedis, Dave Navarro, and Eddie Vedder are all reaching their 50s. Stephan Jenkins, lead singer and the only original member of Third Eye Blind not to exit through the revolving door, turns 51 this year. It’s no surprise, however, that Jenkins is still kicking it in his original band, and with the release of Dopamine, it proves 3EB is no longer as a legacy act.
Despite Third Eye Blind’s previous success, particularly with 2009’s Ursa Major, Jenkins’ latest effort – and let’s be real, this is his band, and his band alone at this point – falls particularly flat. Is it complacency, or is Jenkins just riding the coattails of previous triumphs?
Ironically, the opening track is titled “Everything Is Easy.” While the track is bearable, it evokes no serious emotional response. There’s an overriding flatness to the tune, as if Jenkins was playing with one specific sound that he couldn’t quite figure out how to expand upon. For Third Eye Blind fans used to clever, intoxicating lyrics about lovers and breakdowns, I imagine this song would be a heartbreaker. Well, lyrics like “Go ahead take my heart up/Roll it up like a joint/Smoke me out till the feeling gets cut/When you look in my face/It’s like you forget the point” just aren’t that clever. In fact, I’m not even sure that makes sense.
Despite the rocky start, it’s not all bad. “All The Souls” sounds like something right out of Spoon’s playbook. Though Jenkins’ voice is losing a bit of its luster – his falsetto quivers and even sounds gravelly at times – it’s a bouncy pop song that echoes a sentiment Jenkins himself must be feeling at this stage in his career. “You and I can’t give it up, now” he sings, with real conviction and fire. It’s also one of the most dynamically powerful songs, jumping from high to low with poise and passion as Third Eye Blind prepares stand their ground and tour behind Dopamine.
“Dopamine,” the song from which the album derives its title, sounds like what “Everything is Easy” was meant to be. The stuttering riff comes out in full effect, and to great effect. The band blends subtle harmonies into a background as an artist blends subtle colors into his painted skies. As the momentum builds, it starts to feel like the album is hitting a groove. There’s never been any doubt that Third Eye Blind could write catchy music, as evidenced by songs like “Jumper” and more recently “Bonfire.” “Dopamine” is proof that Jenkins still has some magic up his sleeve.
If “Dopamine” is an appeal to the future, then “All These Things” is an homage to the past. Jenkins most carefully crafted lyrics on the album arrive here as the song’s protagonist sings about the gifts of strength and experience he received from his mother. The character takes ownership of his life by reciting a beautiful list of art and emotions, the likes of which include Jackson Pollock, opera, and a strong encouragement to keep moving forward, that she gave to him as a gift, saying “All these things are yours.” The song also works as an appeal to the audience themselves, as if Jenkins is the mouthpiece for some kind of ancient wisdom.
While there are some bright spots on Dopamine, no song is a surefire summer hit. But there’s still fun to be had. Fans of Third Eye Blind “the band,” rather than fans of Third Eye Blind “the hits,” are likely to enjoy Dopamine.