It’s hard to believe Tempe, AZ’s Jimmy Eat World are now on their seventh album. Yet here we are with the boys who created such college radio staples like ‘Lucky Denver Mint,’ ‘The Middle,’ ‘Sweetness’ and ‘The Authority Song,’ confronting relationship issues and converting them into four-minute rock songs.
The new album is entitled Damage and once again, its tackling life in the mid- to late-30’s. As a listener, I suppose you could say I’ve spent the past fifteen years growing up with these guys. The band has always had great hooks and great abilities to motivate even if the lyrics seemed too caustic or the vocals came across obscured. 2010’s Invented, while not my favorite album, still lead off with about five great songs before dropping into mediocre territory.
‘Appreciation,’ is a great album opener – welcoming long-time fans and casual listeners alike with a rousing guitar line and a propulsive, tempo-driven chorus that has become the band’s calling card. Unfortunately, the band trade that driving sound for another one of their acoustic mid-tempo tunes in the album’s title track. It’s a nice enough song, but completely disables the buoyant mood of the lead-off track. ‘Lean,’ plugs back in and reminisces musically with tracks on the bands first two albums (Static Prevails and Clarity).
‘Book of Love,’ is written in the same vein as the title track asking the question, ‘Who will go and who will stay and when/until one of us can say it like it is.’ Is it me or does Jim Adkins not have a ton of luck or level of happiness in the relationships he’s been in? Either he’s creating some pretty un-love-able characters in his narratives or the dude likes to roam around in relationships like a ghost.
The band’s single, ‘I Will Steal You Back,’ is another track highlighting their bigger-than-life choruses that were a trademark of their early sound. There’s even a rousing guitar solo smack dab in the middle of the track….I guarantee you’ll be singing the chorus of this one in the shower or car if it gets planted in your head a couple of times.
On ‘Please Say No,’ the band once again seeks balance and a comedown after the mid-album rabble-rousing of ‘Steal You Back.’ This tune is admittedly a grower on me. Not as instantly catchy as Bleed American‘s ‘Hear You Me,’ but still cinematic in its own right. My best theory (pun intended) is that the track was aided by the rounded out instrumentation and production of Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age).
The best run of tracks follows, with the rousing ‘How’d You Have Me,’ the new wave emo-leaning ‘No, Never’ (which reminds me of Bleed American’s ‘Cautioners’) and ‘Bye Bye Love’ which has the makings of a 2013 redux sequel to the band’s famous 16 minute track ‘Goodbye Sky Harbor’ off of Clarity.
The album closes with ‘You Were Good,’ which is basically Adkins doing his best Tom Waits-meets-James Taylor impression with a turn on acoustic guitar. It’s a forgettable tune to say the least and if the band were going to throw this one on, perhaps it should have been sandwiched in between the highs of ‘How’d You Have Me,’ and ‘No Never.’
I applaud these guys for still being around over a decade later and continuing to build upon their body of work and not simply allowing themselves to be a footnote in early 21st century rock and roll. While this work is certainly up-and-down in terms of tempo, it does strive for balance with regard to its subject matter. Some critics may laud the band for their growing maturity on this album. For me, though, it’s all about those great, driving hooks. Bleed American was an album that, from end to end, was full of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pining for the early days – I completely respect growth and have found half of this album full of those little reminders. The tunes (from a band that once led a brand new genre created out of their type of songwriting) that slow down the pace, in my mind, better be really F–ing good mid-tempo torch burners. Too often, on Damage, I don’t feel them lighting enough of a fire in my heart. For that reason, the hooks can only hold me so much…
Winners: ‘Appreciation,’ ‘I Will Steal You Back,’ ‘How’d You Have Me,’ ‘No, Never,’ and ‘Bye Bye Love.’