REVIEW – The 15-year-old in me is not enthused with the new Jimmy Eat World album. And they used to be my favorite band. Chase This Light, due out Oct. 16, is an 11-song mess of contemporary pop ideas that don’t come close to Clarity or the self-titled Jimmy Eat World. But I certainly don’t blame the band for putting out this caliber of music.
Jimmy Eat World has too much money to produce anything that isn’t pristine and glossy. And Jim Adkins is the voice of this band, so it makes sense to let him handle all distinct vocal duties: backup vocals, harmonies, double-layering and octave-layering. The band can’t be blamed for being so popular. They have to make music that can appeal to a much wider audience, and I guess that’s why they released a CD this middling.
Jimmy Eat World was, at one time, among the most exciting rock bands in America. Clarity is one of the best albums to come from the emocore phase, their self-titled album went platinum and almost every song on Jimmy Eat World was radio-worthy. The lyrics were so ambiguous that the music became my life’s music. It appealed not only to the exterior manly version of me, but to the introspective version as well. There were sentimental ballads to curl up to and kick-a– rock songs to blast. They were the most important band of my life. Then they put out Futures and Chase This Light.
I’m torn because Light made me question my own musical taste. Was Jimmy Eat World trying to appeal to the mainstream even when they were commercially unsuccessful, but artistically triumphant? Or is my music taste simply at a different place than it was when I first heard Clarity’s “For Me This Is Heaven?”
The new work is too harmonious for its own good; an extra vocal appears in just about every open space. Adkins’ voice is all over the place, with one studio-produced vocal hook after the other. And there isn’t much of a pay-off between verse and chorus.
This doesn’t work for songs like “Let It Happen,” which starts out catchy with a bass and acoustic guitar exchange, but becomes monotonous when you realize the entire song – verse and chorus – is driven by the same four chords. The same tired creativity appears in “Feeling Lucky,” which is a song that can’t wait to finish before it starts. The whole song is essentially a chorus, bridge and chorus, and doesn’t feel like a complete piece of work.
However, there are a few pop songs on the album that remind you of how good things can sound when they simply aim to sound good. The third best song is “Carry You,” a new take on an original by Adkins’ side project, Go Big Casino.
The Jimmy Eat World version only mimics the initial song in the first four lines. After that, the song flows effortlessly, breathing appropriately and soaring into a memorable chorus. The vocals occupy most of the ear room, while the guitars barely stand out and create more of an atmosphere than anything else. This is Adkins acting as a creative songwriter, and it works.
The second best pop song on the album is the arena rocker “Electable (Give It Up).” It’s a cross between “Bleed American” and “Sweetness,” two songs from their massively successful Jimmy Eat World album. The song recalls “Bleed American” when it pumps out edgy guitar chords from the get-go. It relates much more to “Sweetness,” however, because the chorus is composed of many “oh-oh”s. Call this a blatant attempt to redo something that’s been done, but this is a guaranteed crowd-pleasing anthem.
The golden nugget of this record is an easy choice: “Here It Goes” captures your ears from the opening seconds, as in, you can’t listen to anything else. It’s kind of sad how much this song has taken over my life, but that’s pop music at its best. I’ve listened to it at least 40 times in the past four days.
Parts of the song sound like power pop band Hellogoodbye’s works, which makes me cringe a little bit. Other sections, however, are singularly Jimmy Eat World. Adkins’s vocals accentuate the swinging rhythms but still keep space between ideas, allowing everything to layer together at the end. Your head and body will have no problem moving to this song if you don’t consider yourself above unabashedly fun music.
Except for a few good songs, Chase This Light is a disappointment. I’ll see them at the Electric Factory Nov. 10 and then I’ll stop waiting for the Jimmy Eat World of 1999 to reappear. I might listen to “Here It Goes” a couple more times, though.
Chris Zakorchemny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.