Best Album of All Time: Third Eye Blind’s Self-Titled Album – These songs made me.

Sometimes, you just want to talk about a thing.  This is one of those times.  I just want to talk about my love of this one album.  Third Eye Blind’s first album, self-titled, released in early 1997.  I feel like I literally became an adult while this album was on repeat.

Back in the day, before iPods and iPhones and other various forms of MP3 music, we had CDs.  And we carried around a Sony Discman.  And it said it had anti-skip technology, but that was a damn dirty lie!  But I digress.  My point is, I didn’t own any CDs that I could listen to straight through without hitting the “next track” button… except one.  You guessed it.  Third Eye Blind’s self-titled album.

This was one of those CDs that I could put into my anti skip sony diskman portable CD player on repeat for days and days on end.  Sure, I had my favorites, but each song struck a nerve with me at some time or another, and every song’s lyrics still live in my mind and heart to this day.

I was young… puberty was a bitch, my parents had divorced, I hated my stepdad and my mom just had a baby.  Life was less than appealing in those days.  So, I spent a lot of time listening to music, feeling ways about stuff, and just generally being a melancholy, apathetic, aloof, angsty teen.  This album seemed to somehow put me back together when I was in pieces, sooth my life anxieties, yet it also has that edge to it that would metaphorically scream, “fuck yeah!  I’d be mad too!  parents suck!” just when I needed it.  What follows here is a track list of the only album that I love 100%, and sort of a brief ode to each song.

Losing a Whole Year – The resounding first line of this album: “And I remember you and me used to spend the whole god damned day in bed”… one of my favorite lyrics to scream at the top of my lungs!  This song had an upbeat riff to it, even though the lyrics were decidedly your standard alternative fare.

Narcolepsy – “I can feel this narcolepsy slide into another nightmare.” This song is a good for teen angst.  “There’s a demon in my head that starts to play a nightmare tape loop of what went wrong yesterday, and I hold my breath til it’s more than I can take, and I close my eyes and dream that I’m awake.”  Incidentally, I can remember thinking it was ironic that both track 1 and 2 have to do with sleeping or losing sleep or being in bed because I listened to this a lot through my headphones when it was my turn to do my brother’s midnight feedings when he was a baby.

Semi-Charmed Life – Here it is, the quintessential song that people bought the CD for.  A great song that, for me, has continued to be a good listening experience.  It’s one of those songs that most people my age just have to sing along to.  “I want something else to get me through this semi-charmed kind of life…” unknown to me at the time, the song is about drugs.  I was an innocent child and when I think back to that innocent nerd kid singing these lyrics and not knowing what I was saying, I have to laugh.  The part where he says, “and the four right chords can make me cry” is another favorite line of mine.  So true.

Jumper – “I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend; you could cut ties with all the lies that you’ve been living in.”  This song was kind of a sleeper hit.  A long time after the album came out, after I already knew all the words to every song on it, they started playing Jumper on the radio.  Odd timing, but it was cool with me.  Then they overplayed it, like the radio ALWAYS does, so it was a little jaded for a while.  It’s really a great song though.  I knew a pathological liar in high school who was really a good guy deep down inside, but he literally kept everyone at arm’s length because he was such a liar.  I always think of him when I hear this song… I wonder where he is these days.

Graduate – One of the harder songs on the album, this one feels good when being a standard angry teen or reckless teen or just plain feeling like you’re not moving forward in life.  Awesome guitar riffs here, and the raw almost-yelling vocals hit the right spot every time for the times I wanted to just fucking throw something, but didn’t because I didn’t want my mom to be mad at me.  :/

How’s it Going to Be – The third and final “top 40” from this list, this is another song that the radio ran into the ground for a while.  But what an awesome song.  I had lots of breakups with this song as the soundtrack, and for that matter, I had several ruptured friendships and other teen drama bullshit that went along well with this song.

Thanks a Lot – A little more of a punk beat to it, but it’s not too hard.  “I woke you up and I slit the throat of your confidence”… man it’s hard to beat lyrics like that.  This song drips sarcasm and I just love it.

Burning Man – This one is a neat song, with a cute and catchy riff that has always reminded me a little of a Sugar Ray song.  It’s not that it’s so unlike the other songs on this album, but it does have it’s own distinct rhythm.

Good for You – “All I wanna do is be there for the things that you’re going through…” With it’s underlying sexual references and slightly shallow lyrics, if I had to cut a song on the album, I suppose this would be it.  But to be honest, I still love it.  It’s still a good song.  It’s just that there’s nothing particularly memorable or specifically awesome about it.  But it’s solid.

London – Love this one.  This one has plenty of emotions running through it, from “I don’t wanna go to London” to “I wanna get my hands on you” and “I know just what’s on your mind”, and even “we’re no good for each other”.  This song reminds me of some friends I had in school that were FWB and it ended up ripping their hearts out over and over and over again.  I always thought the whole FWB thing was overrated, personally.

I Want You – Another fave.  This one just feels right, when you’re at the dance, and you see the person you think is just the shit standing across the room, this song comes floating through your mind.  “You do, you do, you do… you make me want you.  I can’t get enough.” It’s a very nice love/lust song that’s not at all sappy or jaded.  I still love it.

…and so we come to the last 3 tracks on this album, which are, collectively, quite possibly my favorite songs ever.  (EVER?  Yes.  Perhaps.)

The Background – I shed a lot of tears to this song.  Ohhhh the feels.  “Everything is quiet since you’re not around.  I live in the numbness now, in the background… the plans I make still have you in them”.  I felt this way about several friends and relatives that I lost over the years.  This is really, truly, completely, such a great song.

Motorcycle Drive By – “And there’s this burning, like there’s always been.  I’ve never been so alone, and I’ve never been so alive.”  “There’s things I would like to do that you don’t believe in.  I would like to build something, but you never see it happen.”  These lyrics sit right with me, as I’ve always been a loner and although there are a ton of people in my life that I love, there’s always this burning to do the things that I want to do, but others don’t believe in it.  “I go home to the coast, it starts to rain, I paddle out on the water alone.  I taste the salt and taste the pain but I’m not thinking of you again.”

God of Wine – This song is in my top 10 list of favorite songs of all time.  It is absolutely woven into my soul.  “I walk home alone with you and the mood you’re born into.  Sometimes you let me in, and I take it on the chin.”  “She takes a drink and then she waits, the alcohol it permeates, and soon the cells give way; it cancels out the day.”  I just can’t get enough of this song.

I really hope you enjoyed this sick sad inner monologue about how awesome I think this album is, even though I’m pretty sure it was just another alt rock 90’s album to most people.  Check out some of the songs and let me know what you think!  Alternatively (ha pun), if you have an album that you listen to all the way through without skipping tracks, I wanna know!

-T. Ham

The Video Game Evolution

Look alive nerds – video games are becoming something for everyone.

Rather play video games than talk to girlfriendFor years, playing video games was the sport of losers.  Sit at home, alone, probably in the dark, and push buttons.  No social interaction.  No physical activity.  No wonder cheerleaders and jocks made fun of us!  Those times are quickly changing however as video gaming moves away from the being “alone in the dark” (pun intended) and moves towards something else entirely.  For those of you who don’t know much about video games at all, let me provide a brief history…  (brief because I’m only listing the most popular consoles…there were actually over 50 consoles made between 1972 and 2000).

1972 – Everyone thinks that the Atari was the first video game console on the scene, but those people are wrong.  The first console in the American home was the Magnavox Odyssey.  Infamous for having a controller with poor responsiveness and being battery powered (what?!?), the Odyssey also had no sound and, as to be expected, crude graphics.

1977 – Atari 2600, which actually allowed gamers to play more than one game!  Sold in cartridges resembling 8-tracks, the games had mono sound Atari Controllerand multiple colors.  It’s controller?  The now-iconic black square with a joystick on top.  Oh!  And the big red button…don’t forget about the big red button.  Now, a flood of consoles come onto the market – Mattel, one of the largest toy manufacturers of all time – brings out Intellivision, Colecovision hosts several consoles, and Atari and Magnavox continue to released updated versions of their consoles as well.  Additionally, arcades in shopping centers and malls are growing in popularity.

1985 – Nintendo comes out with the Nintendo Entertainment System, NES Mario Brothersrevamping the gaming industry and breathing more life into the arcades.  The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, is probably one of the most popular consoles of all time.  It’s headlining game, Super Mario Brothers, is still played on old and new consoles across the world.  Meanwhile, Atari struggles to keep up and comes out with the 2600 Junior and the 7800.

1989 – The Sega Genesis gaming system takes the stage and sells very well until…

1991 – Not to be outdone, Nintendo ships out the Super Nintendo SNES Donkey KongEntertainment System, SNES.  Still a cartridge system, but certainly with improved graphics and a leg up on the NES.  The Sega Genesis and the SNES run neck-in-neck, for the first time providing American with two really good choices of home video gaming consoles.

1995 – Huge electronics company Sony decides to get in on the gaming industry.  The Sega Saturn also debuts in 1995, but is largely outdone by the Sony Playstation.  At this point, gaming graphics are good enough to be deemed “awesome” and “radical” by adolescents everywhere.

In the years that followed, a major console was released nearly every year.  1995-2002 proved to be sort of a “proving ground” for the video game market, and everyone held their breath to see which company would be on top of the game at Christmas every year.  1996 brought us the Nintendo N64, 1997 was the year for the SNES Model 2 which sold very well also.  1998, Sega brought out the Sega Genesis 3 and followed it quickly in 1999 with the Sega Dreamcast, its last console to date.  In 2000, Sony revamped its system and marketing the Playstation 2 (or PS2) and then it all came crashing down in 2001 when both the Nintendo Game Cube and the Microsoft Xbox were released, much to Sony’s dismay.  In 2001, it was the clash of the titans as Nintendo, Sony and newcomer Microsoft battled it out for the highest sales numbers every quarter.

The most recent years haven’t proved to be much different; Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are still the big three players.  In 2005, Microsoft debuted the Xbox 360 to rave reviews but in 2006, both Sony and Nintendo unveiled their new consoles as well.  Sony’s PS3 was a higher-end console (read: overpriced) and was geared towards more hardcore gamers (read: nerdy “alone in the dark” types).  Nintendo, however, took it to another level entirely….

A Wii Party2006 brought us the Nintendo Wii.  What makes it so awesome?  Just watch someone play it and you’ll quickly find that the Wii is not just a video game console but a party game console!  With games like bowling and baseball that anyone can play (and I mean anyone – my 82 year old grandfather loves it just as much as my 4 year old cousin) the Wii has sent gaming into orbit.  It’s not just for adolescent boys anymore.

What does the future hold?  It’s unclear at this point if Sony will be able to hang in there.  Sales of their overpriced consoles lack from the downturned economy and they haven’t made any announcements regarding the future of their involvement in the gaming market.  Microsoft however has already begun implementing a new system that could be – dare I say it – BETTER than the Wii.  It’s called Project Natal, although it’s unclear at this time whether that will be the final name of the device, but it is an add-on for the current Xbox 360 console that will allow gamers to play games without any controller at all.  What?  No, no….I don’t mean you need to strap something to your arms or hold something in your hands to play the game.  I mean you don’t need ANY controller at all.  Well, let me rephrase: your body IS the controller.

Why did I bother blogging a brief history of video games?  Because I think that it’s all changing.  Ever since 1972, gaming has been a one or two person thing either done full time by nerds or part time by cool kids when it’s raining and there’s nothing better to do.  But with the onset of games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band and the collection of team sport games on the Wii system, video games are becoming a more popular party activity…if you had a party in the 90’s it was “Let’s play charades!”

I’m thinking that the future of house parties and cookouts will be something entirely different…something that revolves entirely around a big screen TV and an inconspicuous gaming console.

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