Published Oct 16, 2019Let this sink in, doubters and dismissers: Third Eye Blind are still making great music in 2019. Far too many casual listeners unfairly lumped the Stephen Jenkins-led late '90s phenomenon in with their forgettable, lesser-skilled chart-topping alt-rock peers of the era (Matchbox Twenty comparisons particularly rankle). That's likely due to the ubiquity of mega-hits "Semi-Charmed Life" and "Jumper," which, if you're really listening, are brilliantly performed, deceptively nuanced works by a rock band that sounds increasingly timeless. Fans, however, have always known that the band's album cuts are even more impressive than their sublime singles, with atypical structures and the sharpest of hooks, and that holds true with Screamer.
Following an EP of covers that found 3EB personalizing tracks from artists as diverse as Queens of the Stone Age and Beyoncé to great effect, Screamer sees the band incorporating more modern production influences without obfuscating the sonic personality at the core of their sound. The title track, and followup single "Walk Like Kings," are the poppiest confections, with the latter especially skewing lighter on idiosyncrasies than can usually be expected from the band, despite containing some solid hooks and melodies.
The rest of the album, while less rock-oriented than previous outings, embodies so much of what makes the band special. "The Kids Are Coming (To Take You Down)" is driving pop punk anthem with a snarling lead riff that would sound at home on a Dismemberment Plan album; "Ways" is an almost certain single with its molasses-sticky hooks and a fresh take on the sharp rhythmic guitar work that's paid the band's bills for decades; and "Tropic Scorpio" mixes their trademark dirty uncle overshare lyrics with flawless power pop to deliciously cringy effect.
Increasingly modern production elements enter the scene on "Turn Me On," with minute slices of EDM synth stutters employed as sound texture enhancements that blend surprisingly well with the song's laidback alt-rock grind. "Light It Up" applies similar sensibilities to the proggy post-rock power ballad with excellent results. The track sure to be most divisive is "2X Tigers," which is the group's absolutely sincere effort at modern trap. That's not to say that they wrote a trap song, rather that they used the tools of trap music to write a Third Eye Blind song.
By opening up their sonic palette, Third Eye Blind has highlighted their sheer strength as a songwriting unit and demonstrated that any path they take, they'll throw themselves into fully and unreservedly. Sounding both fresh and classic, Screamer is a great place for new fans to jump on, or for previously jaded listeners to give one of rock's most underrated groups a fresh shot. For the rest of us lifers — I didn't even mention the album's best track. Enjoy the surprise. (Megaforce)