Don't throw Third Eye Blind in with all those other post-grunge bands that most of us haven't thought about since 1998. Unlike Silverchair, Candlebox and Seven Mary Three, Third Eye Blind set themselves apart from Nirvana. They invoked elements of grunge, but turned out hits that were happy and danceable, not dark and cathartic. The radio single "Semi-Charmed Life" helped their 1997 self-titled debut sell more than six million copies.
The pop sheen Third Eye Blind added to the post-grunge landscape has been the working model for much of Top 40 rock ever since. The San Francisco band are arguably the bridge that linked '90s "modern rock" to the kind of Dashboard Confessional pop now rotating on contemporary hit radio.
Maybe that's because it's the smart rock stars who become influential. Stephan Jenkins, now 42, was the valedictorian of his class at UC-Berkeley in 1987. He grew up in Palo Alto, where his dad worked as a professor of political science at Stanford University.
In Jenkins' case, brains aren't a substitute for rock-star good looks. He once made People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" list.
Music hasn't always been the most important thing in his life. After Third Eye Blind's 1999 sophomore release, Blue, sold two million copies, Jenkins took three years off. This fall, Third Eye Blind will release only their second album in eight years.
In a recent interview that's generated a giant online buzz among fans, Jenkins told the San Francisco Chronicle that the new album will be "more political."
"Over the last few years, I realized I've been personally so oppressed by government and the way so many people in our country have been silenced and duped," said Jenkins. "It's had a personal effect on me, and I had to write about it."
When carefree, breezy '90s bands like Third Eye Blind begin confronting politics, it's a sign that the musical times are changing.
I previewed a few of the band's new songs from cell-phone clips of their current tour that have shown up on YouTube. The melodies sound less hook-driven and more mature. Many of the lyrics are inaudible, but they sound more reflective than angry.
Don't look for this Barrymore show to be awash in '90s nostalgia. Third Eye Blind have set their sights on a new musical era.