Widowspeak – “How’s It Going To Be” (Third Eye Blind Cover) (Stereogum Premiere)

I’m not sure Third Eye Blind are necessarily due for widespread reappraisal, but I can’t think of many other bands whose critical recognition (or lack thereof) is so incongruous with their actual music. 3EB’s self-titled 1997 debut album went 6x platinum and spawned five singles, all of which featured high-impact, earwormy emo hooks belied by some dark-as-fuck lyrics. Still, the band seem to be remembered as a goofy guilty pleasure rather than an artistic unit of real value, which is too bad: Third Eye Blind is not only leagues above the genuinely disposable detritus of the era, it’s actually aged better than a bunch of ’97’s critical darlings. The album’s best song is its second single, “How It Going To Be,” a richly rendered, indulgently somber power ballad about the moments before a toxic romantic relationship is put to death, as one of its participants reflects on what is being sacrificed, what will follow, and whether it’s worth it. The song is elevated to excellence on the strength of 3EB frontman Stephan Jenkins’ contributions: his melody and vocal performance — both of which are Stipe-ian in their understated force — and his vivid lyrics (“I don’t see lightning like last fall/ when it was always about to hit me”), all of which combine to achieve something far greater than the sum of their fairly estimable parts. Today, the Brooklyn dream-folk duo Widowspeak share a cover of that song, slowing it to the pace of a funeral march and stripping it to its ghostly essence. “How’s It Going To Be” is a melancholy piece of music to begin with, but in Widowspeak’s hands, it’s legitimately bleak: The central riff now brings to mind a warped-tape early recording of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” and the duo’s Robitussin-sweet vocals recall the depressive ambiance of Mazzy Star or early Low. Widowspeak don’t deal in the sort of widescreen quiet/loud dynamics favored by Third Eye Blind, but their minimalist tools serve the arrangement well, and their cover manages to scale the same heights as did the original. It’s a sincere and wondrous reimagining of a song that deserves such treatment, capturing the ambivalence, sadness, and sepia-toned beauty of the source material, while viewing all of it through a whole new lens. Listen.

Widowspeak just released a new LP, All Yours, which is out now via Captured Tracks. “How’s It Going To Be” is featured on a new 7″ called Two Covers. Here’s what Widowspeak frontwoman Molly Hamilton had to say about the EP in general and “How’s It Going To Be” in particular:

We were coming off making the album, and we recorded this and a Tom T. Hall track in our house, for a 7″ … They both felt like they came from a similar mood or place as each other, and sort of as the album.

The first Third Eye Blind record was the first CD I ever bought for myself, like with my own money, and I listened to this song way more than “Jumper” or “Semi-Charmed Life.” I sort of always gravitated towards the melancholy, even as a younger person who didn’t really understand what it was about. The lyrics are great: “soft dive of oblivion” …

We kept it sparse, because that’s how it always felt to me: kind of lonely.

Widowspeak are touring the US and Europe in October and November. Here are the dates:

10/02 San Francisco, CA @ Culture Collide Festival @ Swedish American Hall
10/09 Boston, MA @ Unitarian Universalist Church
10/10 Kingston, NY @ O+ Positive Festival
10/11 Toronto, ON @ Silver Dollar
10/12 Ann Arbor, MI @ Bling Pig
10/13 Chicago, IL @ Chop Shop
10/14 St. Louis, MO @ Luminary Arts
10/15 Norman, OK @ Opolis
10/16 Dallas, TX @ Foundry
10/17 Austin, TX @ Lamberts
10/18 New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
10/19 Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn
10/20 Asheville, NC @ Mothlight
10/21 Chapel Hill, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
10/22 Washington, DC @ Comet Ping Pong
10/23 Brooklyn, NY @ Secret Brooklyn Rooftop Location
11/07 Santa Cruz, CA @ Crepe Place ^
11/09 Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room ^
11/10 San Diego, CA @ The Void ^
11/11 Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theatre ^
11/13 Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar ^
11/14 Vancouver, BC @ Fox Cabaret ^
11/15 Seattle, WA @ Sunset Tavern ^
11/21 Utrecht (NL) @ Le Guess Who
11/22 London (UK) @ London Fields Brewery *
11/24 Manchester (UK) @ Night and Day *
11/26 Leeds (UK) @ Brudenell Social Club *
11/27 Bristol (UK) @ The Louisiana *
11/28 Brighton (UK) @ Mutations @ The Haunt *
11/30 Nijmegen (NL) @ Merley *
12/01 Hamburg (D) @ Stubnitz*
12/02 Copenhagen (DK) @ Vega *
12/03 Gothenburg (S) @ Pustervik
12/04 Lund (S) @ Mejeriet
12/05 Berlin (D) @ Kantine am Berghain (opening for Braids)
* with Saintseneca
^ with QUILT