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Jimmy Eat World

From indie-punks for a penchant for power-pop, to post-grunge emo-pop scenesters, JIMMY EAT WORLD have the “marmite effect” on fans of the genre(s) – you either love ‘em or loathe ‘em. One thing is clear is that the Jimmys have staying power, as their Top 20 album “Damage” proved.
Formed February 1994 in Mesa, Arizona, lead guitarist/vocalist Jim Adkins and drummer Zac Lind had discovered similar band affiliations while pupils at Mountain View High School. Teaming up with likeminded locals Tom Linton (vocals/guitar) and Mitch Porter (bass), their choice moniker derived from Tom’s brother Ed’s prankish drawing of their portly sibling; the under-caption reading: “Jimmy Eat World”. Leaving life behind as a METALLICA covers band, the quartet soon developed a more lugubrious, melodic post-grunge sound, as evidenced on their independently released debut 7″ (`One, Two, Three, Four’) for Tempe imprint, Wooden Blue.
A self-titled JIMMY EAT WORLD (1994) {*4} album quickly followed, as did a slew of split singles shared with the likes of hopefuls, Christie Front Drive, Emery and Blueprint – their “indie” credentials intact for posterity, no matter what.
As Porter made way for Linton’s best buddy, Rick Burch (Linton and Adkins now shared vocals), JIMMY EAT WORLD duly signed to Capitol Records by Gary Gersh, releasing STATIC PREVAILS {*5} as their major label debut in summer 1996. Seemingly blighted by over-production and limited aggro on their run-of-the-mill songs, accusations of jumping on the WEEZER/GREEN DAY/OFFSPRING bandwagon were aimed at their youthful shoulders. Despite cathartic tracks such as `Seventeen’, `Call It In The Air’ and `Anderson Mesa’, the album bombed.
Their contract nevertheless allowed for parallel independent split releases, and they issued an eponymous five-track EP in 1998 as a taster for the acclaimed CLARITY (1999) {*8}, a blinding, infused album of pure rock energy that Capitol were ready to pull had it not been for radio-play by L.A.’s KROQ. Hailed by music journos as “the official emo poster boys”, JIMMY EAT WORLD settled on playing their abrasive, no bullshit, straight up punk-pop. But this wasn’t three-chord idiot rock, oh no! JIMMY EAT WORLD incorporated intelligent lyrics and swirling, prolonged instrumentals, akin to the good ol’ straight-edged days of FUGAZI. Dislodged from its presence on the blockbuster movie, Never Been Kissed (starring Drew Barrimore), `Lucky Denver Mint’ was a highlight from the (DRIVE LIKE JEHU)/Mark Trombino-produced set, as was `Blister’, `Crush’ and the delicious prog-length finale, `Goodbye Sky Harbor’ (all 16 minutes of it!). Had any other emo-rock combo come up with something so grandiose and adventurous? No!
After a split EP shared with Australian rockers Jebediah, the Jimmys were dropped by the unadventurous Capitol. The quirky quartet headed back into the studio and self-financed their sophomore set, BLEED AMERICAN (2001) {*8}, a recording picked up and distributed by Dreamworks (aka Geffen and Spielberg), who’d obviously been impressed by their movie contributions. Allowed to flex their metallic muscle for once, their newfound intensity and confidence shone through on several heartfelt alt-rock songs, from the opening title track to closer `My Sundown’. With the world disturbed by the carnage caused by the 9/11 terrorist air attacks on the Twin Towers, the album was understandably re-titled “Jimmy Eat World” soon afterwards. Despite this slight set-back, the album still catapulted them into the mainstream, while runaway singles, `The Middle’ (a Top 5 smash and MTV fave) and `Sweetness’, added a touch of class to the charts.
Having covered a few records in their time (DURAN DURAN’s `New Religion’, GUIDED BY VOICES’ `Game Of Pricks’ and The WEDDING PRESENT’s `Spangle’), the festive period of 2002 proved fertile in this format by way of a double-A single of WHAM’s `Last Christmas’ and The PRODIGY’s `Firestarter’.
With Gil Norton taking up the baton from Trombino, JIMMY EAT WORLD streamlined their sound on fifth album, FUTURES (2004) {*7}, a Top 10 record for Interscope that also produced a couple of UK-only hits, `Pain’ and `Work’. A major solo artist in her own right, guest singer LIZ PHAIR was the added attraction on the latter (Rachel Haden of THAT DOG had appeared on a handful of songs on their previous set), while the album itself went gold. Marking time in between set schedules, the EP `Stay On My Side Tonight’ picked up good sales, while the bouncing was booted for a version of HEATMISER’s `Half Right’ and a techno-friendly diversion through `Drugs Or Me’.
While one can hear the JimmyEW inspirators DEF LEPPARD, ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT and FUGAZI among several of the better anthemic numbers on the Butch Vig-produced CHASE THIS LIGHT (2007) {*6}, accusations of selling out to the corporate machine were rife. Sweetness and light, hooky and bright, too much of the set relied on a wall of sound to hole up the cracks into their foray into bubblegum-grunge; examples `Always Be’ (a lone UK hit), `Carry You’ and `Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues’.
Appealing to spotty teenagers rather than a discerning, post-campus young adult, it was ditto for the long-awaited INVENTED (2010) {*4}. But for the odd name-check as per usual, it was a tough task for fans that had to endure the throwaway bubblegum drivel, with the exception of the R.E.M.-esque `Action Needs An Audience’ and the lovelorn finale, `Mixtape’.
R.C.A. Records would take up the reins on JIMMY EAT WORLD’s much-improved eighth album, DAMAGE (2013) {*7}. If groups go pop, the songs really have to matter and be almost immediately distinguished from the chaff that pummels the airwaves. Although sales took a downturn (No.14 in the US and Top 40 in Britain), the “Damage” had certain been done on their previous splurge. Whether producer Alain Johannes had been the catalyst this time around, or it was just down to the re-invested, emo-styled lyrics of Adkins, one could at least get to grips with the niceties of `Appreciation’, `Book Of Love’, `How’d You Have Me’ and the title track.
Not yet the inventive rock force they’d promised to be when they burst on to the scene a dozen or so years ago, Emo-pop specialists JIMMY EAT WORLD were back from their usual 3-year sabbatical on their near transatlantic Top 20 set, INTEGRITY BLUES (2016) {*7}. Neither with integrity nor the blues (okay, there was lots of sadness and heartache), one could hear bits of KEANE, DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE and others of that soft-core ilk on their airplay-friendly pop tunes (with the exception of the beefy single `Get Right’, `Sure And Certain’ and `Through’). A matter of stop-me-if-you’d-heard-this-one-before, loyal fans of JEW, and pop music in general, will love the picturesque and endearing `Pretty Grids’, `Pass The Baby’ and opener `You With Me’.
A commercial sound without a commercial appeal was indeed the challenge awaiting Emo rockers JIMMY EAT WORLD after their 10th album only reached #90. Hardly SURVIVING (2019) {*7} as the title suggested (though it did dent the UK Top 20), maybe their sell-by-date was fast approaching as a fresh decade was about to unfold. Once again produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and featuring anthem single, `All The Way (Stay)’ (highlighting backing vocals from Rachel Haden) and AFI’s Davey Havok on one of its best bits, `Congratulations’, the probability was that their fanbase was growing up. A bleeding one-man America was under a cloud of suspicion around the globe; however the Jimmy’s were dealing with centrist subject material of self-acceptance, alcoholism and anxiety: though all were more or less connected if one studied the lyrics behind `Criminal Energy’ and `Love Never’.
© MC Strong 2002-2006/GRD / rev-up MCS Jun2013-Oct2019

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