I am not a preppy teen girl. I am a fat oldish guy with less of a social life than an unrefined corpse flower
and musical taste that runs from Underworld
to Bim Skala Bim
to The Crystal Method
to The Art of Noise
to Leonard Cohen
to Alabama 3
I enjoy 3EB.
I was first hooked sometime around the summer of 1998, listening to Semi-Charmed Life filtering into my Santa Monica summer internship through Walkman headphones, car stereos and treble-heavy public area PA music snippets on the Promenade. I bopped head to the tune mindlessly, weaving a path of sine-wave altitudes through a relatively untroubled life that summer with it as my soundtrack.
I'm packed and I'm holding
I'm smiling, she's living, she's golden and
she lives for me, She says she lives for me
Ovation, she's got her own motivation
she comes round and she goes down on me
And I make her smile, it's like a drug for you
Do ever what you want to do
Coming over you
Keep on smiling
what we go through...
When I got back to Massachusetts, I bought their eponymous album, and discovered that with the exception of the track The Background, this was an album I could listen to almost in its entirety, not worrying about fast-forward or skiptrack. A rarity. Something important when studying hard for a degree you wouldn't get, for a purpose that turned out to be vapor, watching your life run slowly down a drain, as happened following that year.
It's still trickling down.
Can I graduate?
Can I look into the faces that I meet?
Can I get my punk ass off the street
I've been living on for so long...
But the 3EB music is a throwback reversion. Their second album Blue, and their latest Out Of The Vein, continued the trajectory of almost-but-not-quite mindless optipop. Driving music, this is; and driving music of an excellent type. It can make your foot press down and your neck lift up, wiggling in the driver's seat and yelling lyrics out the window or the open convertible top with the un-self-consciousness of the monomaniacal.
If asked why I like this stuff, I think my first answer is "because the band is tight." It is, too. It might be due to production tricks, I don't know, but I know there's almost no slop whatsoever in what is a relatively fast-paced oeuvre. The vocals, while of arguable quality, are quick and well-linked to the band's workings. You can almost see eyes closed and tongues clenched in teeth as guitar and bass follow the vocalist and the drums through fast passages, at least the first few times. Then you can imagine the transcendental feeling of doing it live, in front of hundreds or thousands of people, and not missing a note or beat with the competence that can only come from extreme pressure and then, without a break, from the ease of long practice.
And there's this burning
Like there's always been
I've never been so alone
And I've never been so alive...
Being alive isn't necessarily a good thing. 3EB's music knows that. In among the shallow happiness of her coming like 1000 Julys
is the fact that she's 10 days late
. Despite the the acceleration of Faster
there's the clutching fingers which Never Let you Go
I think that's why I keep coming back to it. Although I need fast music to lift my physical mood, I have trouble listening to relentlessly optimistic fast music, or unbridled energetic fast music. I need music that, no matter how much it wants to make you dance, knows that the party will end and the evening might come on with you alone, walking down a dark street with a half-empty bottle and no plan nor good memories.
I don't think the band themselves even are the ones who injected this into the music. Not deliberately, at least. When they do so deliberately, you end up with the horrid chart-ness of Slow Motion, perhaps the most ham-handed and saccharine 'songs of young tragedy' I can possibly imagine. Seriously, it's fucking awful, guaranteeing that entire clubs of empty-headed preppy blondes will sway back and forth singing in crowd time to it whenever it's performed.
But that song isn't the one about darkness and rage. Nope. It's too constructed. Those songs are there, and they're hiding even from the band that made 'em. See if you can find them.
We're lacking something
Is this all for nothing?
Show me the goods