Although I could happily go the rest of my life without ever hearing “Jumper” again, Third Eye Blind’s debut record has always been a desert island album for me. Top to bottom, the album is littered with amazing songs. Lead singer Stephan Jenkins was an incredible storyteller and lyricist, and this record is a reflection of that talent. What may be my favorite song on the band’s breakthrough recording – and the bar is set high with songs like “Motorcycle Drive By,” “God of Wine,” “Narcolepsy,” and “Losing a Whole Year” – is “The Background.”
“Everything is quiet
Since you’re not around
I live in the numbness now
In the background”
Even among the other heavy-hitters on the record, “The Background” is perhaps the most haunting and emotional. Storytelling is at its finest in a song like this when the lyrics are instantly relatable, when at the same time, the listener doesn’t really know what the writer was referring to.
“I do the things we did before
I walk Haight Street to the store
And they say ‘where’s that crazy girl?
You don’t get drunk on red wine and fight no more’
I don’t see you anymore, since the hospital”
Thoroughly heartbreaking, “The Background” is not your run-of-the-mill breakup song. The lyrics are brilliant and serve a dual purpose – to make the listener relate, and also to wonder. Everybody has felt “the numbness” after a breakup – after the crying is over, after the sharp pain dissipates. Even though you may have never walked one of San Francisco’s most storied streets, you may very well have experienced the curiosity of others who observed your former relationship – the ones who come asking questions when your team has been halved.
“The plans I make still have you in them
‘Cause you come swimming into view
And I’m hanging on your words like I always used to do
The words they use so lightly
I only feel for you
I only know because I carry you around
In the background”
As if that chorus wasn’t enough to start the waterworks, the music itself throughout this song is emotional and airy, and sounds like something that would be playing while you wandered through a dream. A wailing guitar solo enters to further solidify the emotion, and along with the rest of the song, will inevitably get you thinking about that person that you carry around, or once did “in the background.”
This song is a gem, from a knockout record that slammed into the world in 1997. I always love it when my favorite song on an album was not the top single that you’ll never stop hearing on the radio, because sometimes, the true gold is buried in the deep tracks.
That’s all for this installment of Growing Up 90’s! Check out “The Background” by Third Eye Blind!