Monday, October 18, 2010

Third Eye Blind - Camoflauge

I like this song a lot. It's got an "it" quality for me.

I might be completely off-base with this one, but I have this impression of 3EB as a band that, despite having a string of pretty successful hits in the 90's and early aughts, is kind of under-appreciated. I'm not sure what it is, but I talk to a lot of people who I generally feel have similar taste in music to me, and they're not really familiar with 3EB's work beyond the radio singles. That could be because those songs may have had the tendency to be overplayed, which repelled people from the albums. Whatever reason, it's really a shame, because I have found each of their albums that I own - Blue and Out of the Vein in addition to the self-titled debut - to be very solid from start to finish.

One thing that I really think Third Eye Blind had nailed is the writing of witty, free-flowing stream of consciousness type lyrics, and crafting that rambling into a legitimately catchy song. There seems to be a trend now in indie rock (and all of its many, many iterations) to create rock in either of two diametrically opposed sonic camps: one is the extremely minimalistic, often dreamy and frequently twee, generally hippie style of shoegazing indie (The xx is a good example of this); the other is the densely layered, sometimes cacophonous, rich style that involves several instruments and sounds that are distinctly built on each other, created in this way to reward the listener by hearing something new every time.

Disclaimer - I love a lot of stuff that comes out of both camps, and a lot of indie in general, so I'm not really ragging on it here. I do think, however, that - perhaps in an effort to distance themselves from mainstream pop - the art of composing a catchy song has been rather discarded among those who consider themselves "serious musicians." That's not to say that catchy indie/rock albums don't exist any longer: Florence + the Machine, for instance, crafted an album in 2009 that managed to be thoughtful and musically rich while still employing a catchy hook. I think that's part of what made Lungs so successful, and why songs off of this (now) year-old album continue to be well-received as they're progressively released into the public.

So, back to "Camoflauge" - I think this song is a great example of melding a lush sonic background with an ambient vocal (like so many indie songs like to do these days,) but then hitting you with a catchy hook in the chorus. The lyrics aren't quite discernible enough to be sing-able, but I definitely get the melody stuck in my head for awhile (and I don't mind - it's lovely.)

Of course, I think 3EB is also successful even when they're sticking to a pretty "traditional" radio-rock sound.

Is there anything musically in that song that's earth-shatteringly unique? Probably not. And yet, I never get that feeling like I've heard it somewhere else before. Maybe it's because, despite a standard alternative sound, the emotion is believable, and the lyrics don't warrant putting a hole through the brain to make it stop. And honestly, I've managed to choose two songs to put up here, but the truth is that another thing that 3EB excels at is releasing albums that are consistently good, start to finish. I could have easily put up any song from any album (that you haven't already heard a million times on the radio) and felt just as confident that it was a good representation of a solid band.

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