Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Long live the album (or, Third Eye still Blind)

There have been a few times over the eleven years I've been writing for the Vault when my thoughts have gone back to one of the more scathing reviews I've ever written. The target was Third Eye Blind, which is in itself pretty laughable -- I mean, who cares? But see, a decade ago, right around the time "Semi-Charmed Life" was getting play on FM radio, TEB frontman Stephan Jenkins recorded bumpers for ABC's old family-friendly TGIF segment. This was also right around the time my seven-, nine- and eleven-year-old kids were following Full House, with the end result that my eleven-year-old came home one day having purchased an album riddled with references to sex, drugs and suicide. As you may have guessed, I was not happy about this.

Now, I've considered a few times over the years whether I was a little hard on Jenkins and TEB. It probably wasn't their idea to record those bumpers. And while I remain very comfortable with the parenting decision my wife and I made, at least one TEB fan wrote in to tell me I was in fact exactly what I stated right up front in my review -- a prude. Fine. Given what passes for standards of public behavior today, I'll take that as a compliment.

And then last night I read this piece, in which an older but apparently no wiser Stephan Jenkins wastes a substantial number of syllables ragging on the album as an art form and basically admitting he can't be bothered to put together ten decent songs at once, that three or so at a time is more his speed. Let me tell you two things: 1) The day albums cease to be a relevant art form will be the day I roll up the Daily Vault and take it off-line; and 2) The day I give a flying anything what Stephan Jenkins thinks will be... well, clearly, that just won't happen.

Digital downloading won't kill the album any more than the Kindle will kill books. These art forms have endured for good reasons. Trend-hopping stylistas like Jenkins always make the same mistake, assuming that smaller and faster and less substantial and less meaningful automatically equals better. Twitter is maybe the ultimate example of this simultaneously lazy and hyperactive cognitive A.D.D., which is why I'd guesstimate its half-life at about six months. If there's one thing this nation, this culture is crying out for right now, it's more substance, not less. Long live the album.

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