It’s yourself again, from the future. You’re probably sitting in the basement eating Hot Pockets while eagerly awaiting MTV’s Amp and the slim chance they’ll air the controversial video for the Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up.” Indeed, The Fat of the Land is a highly advanced record for 1997, but you must not allow the mind-warping visuals and thumping beats of this short-lived late-night television program to convince you that electronic music from the U.K. is “the new pop.” Pop music will forever be vacuous and superficial, but it’s also a whole lotta fun. Rather than grow into a curmudgeon that hates infectious hooks, it’s best to go with the flow and accept nonsense like “Semi-Charmed Life,” the obnoxious lead single from Third Eye Blind’s self-titled debut record, at face value. You’ll be the better for it—I promise.
I know you’re thinking this is worse advice than super-gluing that Korn patch to your JanSport backpack. As silly as that song is, the rest of that album is pure gold in a way you’ve yet to comprehend. It’s the best worst music of its time. You are not cooler than this record, nor will you ever be.
Some day you’ll find yourself a freshman at the University of Akron, spending a balmy August evening drifting from one house party to the next in search of a cute girl you met at orientation. You’ll eventually find her at the faux-fraternity house down the street that will eventually digress into a meth lab, but she won’t have time to chat. She’ll be too busy helping a choir of 30 other people belt out the last three tracks from Third Eye Blind. You’ll go home (alone), download the record off Audiogalaxy and wonder what you were thinking when you chose an Astralwerks compilation over this overwrought masterpiece of schlocky alt-rock.
Third Eye Blind will continue to churn out radio-friendly post-grunge anthems in a uniform fashion, but I would be lying if I said it would be effortless to stay on board as a closeted supporter. Stephan Jenkins, the group’s dreamboat of a lead singer, will become a poster boy for pompous, self-aware douchebaggery. He will openly acknowledge how absurd the construct of the music industry is, then he will date Michelle Branch and take her and the Goo Goo Dolls on tour. You’ll rediscover the latter’s angsty breakthrough record A Boy Named Goo and kick yourself for not attending that one, but you’ll also end up working a dead-end job at a coffee shop that will make you loathe the kind of SUV-driving soccer moms that would attend such an event en masse, so I guess it doesn’t really matter in the end.
What does matter is sterling pop songcraft, which Third Eye Blind has in spades. The subject matter is about as deep as a kiddie pool, and it’s sung by a petulant pretty boy who thinks people take him seriously, but at least he’s not Kanye—which is another story entirely.
SEE IT: Third Eye Blind plays Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., on Monday, Dec. 16. 8 pm. $30. All ages.