Jimmy Eat World: Band of the Decade?

I recently listened to the remastered version of Clarity, the band’s critically acclaimed breakthrough album, which is declared by many to be the definition of real emo.  Real emo.  Not the guy-liner, screaming vocals, and general “I hate my life” mall emo of today, but heart-on-my-sleeve, down to earth emotional rock.  The music blew me away.  I forgot how good this album really was.  Every song weaves into the next within a lush musical environment and the lyrics actually begged to be listened to.  To prove it’s worth, the album, orginally released in 1999, was re-released in 2007, as well as released as a live album based on the group’s tour of the entire album.

It got me to thinking.   Jimmy Eat World, a four-peice alternative rock band from Meza, Arizona, has released a consistantly good and growth-filled album with each outing.  The Jimmy Eat World of the nineties sounds nothing like the Jimmy Eat World of present, but is still entrancing in its own way.  As well, each song on pretty much each album deserves to be there.  I started thinking about other bands that I could say the same thing about.  There are very few, and certainly not many with a catalog as large as Jimmy Eat World’s.   

With Clarity ushering in the new mellenium, the band released Bleed American in 2001 (re-named after the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks to Jimmy Eat World).  The album notched up the tempo on most of the tracks and proved that the band could create a mean hook-laden pop-rock song.  “The Middle” caught on with radio-listeners the world over and pushed the band into mainstream success, 3 albums after their first outing.  Which leads me to one of my peeves about the band: many judge JEW by “The Middle”, as this is the only song that comes to mind when they hear the band’s name.  The song, however, does not accurately portray the band’s sound.  It is simplistic up-temo pop-punk track whereas Jimmy Eat World’s signiture sound, I feel, is a much more slow burner rocker, characterized by deep personal lyrics.  But I digress, “The Middle” still rocks.

The rest of the 2000’s brought Futures (2004) and Chase this Light (2007).  The two albums grow on the band’s already easily accesible sound.  It’s amazing that these hook filled, middle of the road rock albums by a band that garnered such indie cred with Clarity are produced with the same feeling, attention, and love.  Plus, the original indie fans don’t accuse the band of “selling out”, as they should not.  Jimmy Eat World has earned their right to play their music.  This wide appeal is one of the things I pondered as I listened to their music again this past week.  From the 3 minute pop-rock ditty of “The Middle”, to the 7 minute powerful plea of “23”.  From the indie kids, to the mall kids, to their older fanbase that remembers the Static Prevails days.  Jimmy Eat World delivers.

Jimmy Eat World is real music.  Not overproduced, not overwritten, not overthought.  I  don’t believe many other bands have brought as many smile-inducing, toe-tapping, yet intelligent songs to the masses as this band has in the last 10 years. 

 Jimmy Eat World for Band of the Decade.  With talk of a new album in 2010, I hope it is a sign that we will see many many more years of entertainment from this band.  In the mean time, I take comfort in the fact that when lead singer Jim Adkins croons  “they’ll say, Lord give me the chance to shake that hand,” that I already have.

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