Feb 2 2022

Album Review: Jimmy Eat World – Clarity (#MWE)

Like the majority of music fans, I am more familiar with Bleed American, Jimmy Eat World’s breakthrough album from 2001. Their previous effort Clarity, however, is considered very influential, and many claim it was commercially overlooked upon its release in 1999. Having finally heard the effort all the way through, I can attest to the praise: Clarity is a sharp, consistent album with a heavy replay factor.

Before we go any further, I must express my deep-seated bias for energetic pop-punk over the softer emocore. I have dabbled with The Hotelier and Modern Baseball, but I’m a Blue Album guy more than a Pinkerton guy. It’s just in my blood, y’all! But despite my penchant for fast-paced rhythms and chugging power chords, I can appreciate the impact of Clarity, a foundational album that lays the groundwork for an entire subgenre so effectively its imitators have all but rendered its most ingenious elements a cliche.

The album opens with the mellow, introspective “Table For Glasses,” followed by the now-classic single “Lucky Denver Mint.” These two openers set the tone for the rest of Clarity, and Jim Adkins’ and Tom Linton’s vocal harmonies are signature to the unmistakable sound of Jimmy Eat World.

The variety of instrumentation is startling, but not overbearing; this is not a typical guitar-and-drums listen by any stretch. Zach Lind’s electronic percussion programming, particularly on the aforementioned “Mint,” is akin to something a maturing Blink 182 would lift several years later. Lind’s bells and chimes layered throughout bolster the album’s pensive framework, a perfect setting for the existential, sometimes somber lyrics to shine through.

At times, we can hear what was to come: “Your New Aesthetic” features a chugging guitar intro reminiscent of the band’s future blockbuster hit “The Middle.” Unlike that Bleed American single, however, the song isn’t upbeat or optimistic, but rather insular and shoegaze-influenced. But Jimmy Eat World have always been able to tug at the heartstrings, as is clear on the Weezer-esque “Believe What You Want,” sporting screeching guitars and an anthemic chorus. Meanwhile, “A Sunday” is wistful and pensive with just a tinge of outward emotion and melancholy, a style Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional would adopt.

While the arrangements keep us guessing, the mood rarely changes. This hampers the project slightly, as filler starts to creep in near the middle. Thankfully, things pick up near the end with highlight “Just Watch the Fireworks,” featuring violins and other warm instrumentation. The album closes with a series of Clarity’s strongest tracks: fan favorite “For Me This Is Heaven,” the welcome change of pace “Blister,” the riff-heavy title track, and the epic 16-minute “Goodbye Sky Harbor.”

The heart-on-sleeve influence of Clarity cannot be ignored, but the band refined their style and made a better album a couple of years later, one that arrived just in time for them to receive the accolades they deserved. Clarity is Bleed American’s introverted older brother. The latter may have been more outgoing and more popular, but it owes a lot to what came before. In fact, so does all of modern emo.

Score: 7/10

Nov 28 2011

The Top 50 Albums of the 2000s – Bleed American

Today I continue a series of posts dedicated to the best albums of the last decade, posting analysis of one album at a time.

32. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

Originally called Bleed American, but changed to a self-titled moniker due to the post-9/11 censorship mania, Jimmy Eat World’s breakthrough album is an undeniable power pop classic. Spawning four huge singles, including unavoidable hit “The Middle,” the album propelled the band into the mainstream almost overnight. Listening in retrospect, it’s easy to hear why: everything here is infectious from beginning to end. You’d have to be a robot to not find something you liked.

“A Praise Chorus” is a lovely nostalgic sendup to the 80’s, while “Sweetness” is a call-and-response shout-along made for arenas. “Hear You Me” is a somber tribute to Weezer fans Mykel and Carli, and “Authority Song,” quite possibly the best track on the album, pays homage to the old Mellancamp tune in name only. Overall, Bleed American is an easy pill to swallow, but by no means is it one you get tired of consuming repeatedly. Even after ten years, the melodies still click in a way the band has been unable to match since. Catchy, intelligent, precise, timeless.

Listen to Bleed American on Spotify.

Jan 20 2011

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 70-61

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

70. Band of Horses – Is There a Ghost

The first track off Cease to Begin is a great introduction to Band of Horses’ second disc – it’s a beautiful rising track with the simple, repeated lyrics “I could sleep” and “When I lived alone, is there a ghost in my house.”  What follows is a near-flawless album that embodies the Southern spirit and indie charm this now-immensely popular group delivers.

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Sep 28 2010

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 160-151

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

160. Jimmy Eat World – Authority Song

The band’s breakthrough was in the form of a pretty spectacular power pop album, and while their new sounds reveal the group to have eased into generic territory, this self-titled disc (originally called Bleed American, but changed due to the post-9/11 attack on media and music) was a welcome escape from the over-saturation of bland hip-hop and post nu-metal radio dreck.  “Authority Song” is a forgotten album track that has more hooks than the uplifting, cheesy lead single “The Middle.”

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Jun 17 2010

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 240-231

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

240. Menomena – Wet and Rusting

The finest track from Friend and Foe begins with Menomena’s trademark effects layered across an odd strumming pattern.  By the time we reach the second chorus, the track turns into a cavalcade of rolling drums and scaling piano lines.  And to top it all off, it’s simply beautiful.

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