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“A Bit on Third Eye Blind’s Impossible, Cosmic Mid-Song Contradictions”

Something about San Francisco just has a way of edifying all of our constitutions. It is a city which rejects things, things which are old and stale like Christianity’s spiritual rule, or things like you, when you foster the delusion that you can afford the cost of living there.
It is not a place of tradition — it’s a place where human wills rest writhing on the floor, totally naked, free to form as holistic, utterly cosmic paradigms. It’s no accident that it’s given us some of our most beloved music, from the Grateful Dead, to Sly and the Family Stone, up through the ’90’s’ Third Eye Blind, which I maintain may have been an indie pitchfork darling had they surfaced in the ’00’s (and maybe had Stephen Jenkins cleaned up the whininess in his voice a little bit). The culture there, encapsulated in the charming, androgynous tales of the urban great Armistead Maupin, calls for exploration, for anything at all other than sameness, than that flavor you had about you last decade.
And in order to truly stand outside the system, and to usurp it, you have to know it really well, a tenet which may be wound up with Alan Watts’ early tendency to so engulf himself in Christianity. He would come to write some of the most inspiring, pantheistic Zen texts ever documented, but his is also a long line of getting to know convention — flirting with being a bishop in the American Midwest, and for a long time preaching Christianity at Northwestern University. This came before his exodus, both spiritual and geographical, to the Zen-seeking environment of the Bay Area. [1]
Amongst discussions of religion having to do with his early life, when he was scouring the Church for something to believe in, you see, in Alan Watts by David Stuart, many instances of a markedly earnest religious endeavor on the parts of human individuals. These individuals may be mentioned as active in an extreme cognitive embrace of the rules of God, while not juxtaposed with much speakable social climbing — that is, church involvement, papacy, persecution of non-believers, etc. This sort of personage, this sort of endeavor, just seems so off the beaten path of 21st century America, wherein emphases lie on “getting things done” and “enacting change,” which usually just means changing something to an entity which will eventually be reversed again, by way of very logic. The completely un-egotistical mind, indeed, the metaphysical, non-tactile, mind, seems undeniably foreign.
Yet, it may be underrated the extent to which we have all undergone spiritual decisions, deep pacts with ourselves concerning future endeavors of how we treat people, and maintain holistic connexion with the divinity of our existence, whether or not we choose to ascribe this divinity to an ulterior being. In fact, even in my life, I can remember the decision to start going to Church, when I was 17 — it was followed, believe it or not, by the automobile death of my cousin Courtney, and I never ended up going back. I told a psychologist about this, and she said, “Surely now you see the errors in your ways,” to which, in fact, I was too afraid to admit that I still indeed held the superstition of cause and effect there.
Living in Midwestern America, I definitely found it pretty hard to locate a true paradigm of righteousness, of pure living, a situation which was exacerbated by the fact of sexual assault charges brought against our local parishioner, and at the Church I attended as a boy, too. By the time I finished high school, I had already been the victim of multiple molestations (this is not counting girls grabbing my butt at concerts, which I never minded). I was thoroughly grossed out by the world, and would often offend people inadvertently by my very facial expressions.
War seemed to be the only constant — men taking to simple, carnal combat as a way of resolving things, as a way of grafting the continuum of the world. Once the war has been fought, nation’s economies restabilize (although in truth it might be the war itself which stabilized them)… how should I put it, CULTURE restabilizes itself, and the automatons of America are once again taken to TV sets the nation over, to laugh on command, to cry on command, to march in lockstep to the beat of the corporate machine.
In this way, America establishes itself as a multifaceted, complex beast — it is not just war, or just comedy, it is the both of them, intertwining by way of pure noise, to lead us to the next bright, shiny object. Many turn to violence in America, including, even, deployed Marines at home on their weekends off, but this is too simple — the real way to fight the enemy is with love, and rock and roll. And I am being cheeky here, but I can’t help remembering having the distinct inclination that if they would have played Bob Marley through speakers in the White House, we never would have gone to war and bombed all those innocent Iraqis. We would have found SOME other way.
Personal progress is religion; PARADIGMATIC progress is great rock and roll music, such as that made by Third Eye Blind in its heydays, the first two albums which featured founding guitarist Kevin Cadogan. Third Eye Blind had in them a precious combination, a songwriting democracy of Stephen Jenkins’ lyrics and singing, and Cadogan’s preternatural gift for writing guitar patterns.
But the final product of the best Third Eye Blind songs is even more complex than THIS — and the reason has to do with Stephen Jenkins’ “Impossible, Cosmic Mid-Song Contradictions,” which I elucidate in the title. Though there may be others, among the most notable instances of this phenomenon, one takes place on the self-titled debut’s “How’s it Going to Be,” and the other happens on Blue’s excellent, epic “Wounded.” In each song, Jenkins showcases what is his conception of romantic impossibility — back and forth dating, to be exact, the already engraved reality that he will get something great, and then lose it, and that said thing will continue to be great, perhaps even better than ever, once it is out of his grasp. In “Wounded,” he foretells of getting back together with a girl who’s been raped, a girl he still likes a lot, only to see her “walk on, baby walk on, you walk on.” The effect in the song, in specific, is one of COMPLETION — and by this eschewal of the fairy tale ending of the relationship, the whole storyline takes a real life tone, a metaphorical sunset of actuality, to go along with all the real life drama Jenkins experiences already in everyday life, from meth usage to potential suicides.
“How’s it Going to Be” is a little bit different, because the subject matter, and tone, when he tears the song’s preexisting semantics asunder with the “I wanna taste the salt of your skin,” assume an entirely postmodern shamelessness. That is to say, he does not, within this context, APOLOGIZE for the contradiction, saying he wants once again to be with the girl when before he’d been professing the relationship’s inevitable demise. The lurid circumstances are offered as if they possess every trapping of normalcy, and this is what makes it postmodern, and how Jenkins actually improves upon beat poetry with many of these projects, right along with the haunting imagery in “Jumper”: “You’re the flash of light on the burial shroud.”
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[1] According to wikipedia, Watts broadcast a radio show from Berkeley, but built a huge following in San Francisco, infiltrating it by proxy.

 

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