Sound — 9
Third Eye Blind fans might have found their patience was tested (well, perhaps not as much as GN'R fans) waiting for the San Francisco band to release new material. It's been a good 5 years since the last studio album Out Of The Vein hit shelves and we'll have to hold out until March before we get another full-length release, but Third Eye Blind is giving a taste of what's to come with the new EP Red Star. The digital format release is short and sweet with it's 3 songs, but luckily the few tracks available represent some of the best work of the band's career so far.
Musically we get a pretty good variety in the few songs, and although there are only 3 official members currently in the band, there is a very rich, layered texture to each track. Red Star is the most exploratory in terms of sounds and effects, and at times the instrumentation almost has a U2-like feel to it. The title track is a far cry from the happy-go-lucky sound of Semi-Charmed Life, and you could even use the dreaded term maturing to describe the band's growth as musicians. While there are solid harmonies throughout, the coolest, most unusual vocals come during the final seconds of the track.
The central focus on Why Can't You Be is undeniably the lyrics. This particular track was recorded live and features an amusing, witty conversation that frontman Stephen Jenkins has with the audience right before the song is performed. Let's just say it has to do with his ex and a showerhead. In any case, Why Can't You Be remains a pretty straightforward soft rock tune, and at 6 minutes long it amazingly still manages to hold your attention because of the fresh, unique lyrics from Jenkins.
Closing out the 3-track EP is Non Dairy Creamer, which starts out with just Jenkins' vocals, a steady, beating drum, and clean electric guitar. As low-key as it starts out, the song abruptly and effectively explodes during the chorus. In that moment you are blasted with vibrant, distorted guitars and a big sing-along chorus. To keep things interesting, the band draws it all back in during the 3rd minute, breaking it all down with a jazzy little guitar solo and grooving bass line. Non Dairy Creamer is a dynamic track that finds a perfect balance between creative lyrical content and original music composition.
Lyrics — 10
While the laid-back sound of Third Eye Blind might not click with all audiences, you have to give credit to Jenkins for being able to write witty, conversational lyrics. There might be only 3 tracks on the Red Star EP, but you will be hard-pressed to find any throw-away, generic lines on it. While Non Dairy Creamer comes in a close second lyrically, it's Why Can't You Be that keeps you on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear what odd little ideas are going to come out of Jenkins' mouth. The singer talks about everything from his girlfriend's water massager being a sweet, reliable machine to J.D. Salinger to outsource government contracts. Originality flows out of every line and confirms why Third Eye Blind deserves to be a household name after 15 years.
Overall Impression — 9
Only die-hard fans would probably venture out to Best Buy to pick up a hard copy album featuring only 3 songs, and that's unfortunate given the fact that the new material is well-deserving of an audience. Thankfully, neither the band nor the record label has to be troubled with that matter. Third Eye Blind has embraced the current state of the music world by exclusively distributing Red Star digitally, and it should pay off for them in the end. If you're scared that Third Eye Blind is trying to be overly modern or hip in terms of the musical content, put those fears aside. While the song Red Star does show signs that the band experimented with some new equipment, the overall sound is classic Third Eye Blind. And at the heart of it all is definitely Jenkins, who undoubtedly is one of the most engaging, honest lyricists on the scene today.