It’s amazing how one band can be so naturally consistent over time. Jimmy Eat World is that band for me. Only Death Cab For Cutie might be up there with them for consistently releasing great content that neither tries too hard nor is complacent. It just is.
It’s nice to sometimes just sit and take in life’s simple pleasures. For me, right now it involves sipping on a glass of cabernet while I write this review. Jimmy Eat World has been there for me, like a faithful friend, through just about every part of my musical taste evolution. Like many, “The Middle” opened my ears to the band in middle school, when I was first finding myself in my music listening habits. That their newest album is called Surviving feels very appropriate, as it marks for a sense of victory of “wow, I’ve gotten this far” when it comes to my life. As a person of Christian faith, I believe there’s more to life than simply surviving (a Teacher I admire once mentioned that He came so that people might have “abundant life”), yet there’s an authenticity in this band’s music that I like. It makes me feel good without feeling contrived. “Criminal Energy” has this big hook that seems to drive that point home as I’m typing.
Indeed, Jimmy Eat World are masters of the emo-driven rock anthem. Lead single “All the Way (Stay)” gives me a feeling similar to being a young boy, discovering R.E.M. for the first time. Jim Adkins’ talk-y vocal stylings at times take me back to REM’s “Radio Song” while backing up with a riff worthy of twilight drive with the windows down. And it has a sweet sax solo at the end of the end, securing a spot amongst the poignant-saxophone elite that also includes M83’s “Midnight City.”
The band also does well blending the melancholy with the mysterious. “555” might be the best example of this effect on the record. With its otherworldly dystopian music video, it takes me back to a similar single, “My Best Theory” off Invented, which is my most played JEW song to date. Yes, I keep track (thanks, Last.FM).
Finally, I have to address a highlight of every Jimmy Eat World album: the closer. Here, it’s “Congratulations.” This six minute long song isn’t as iconic as “23” or even the underrated double whammy that ends Invented, but the band seems to recognize the impact of those songs and takes the end of this record a different direction. While other albums have ended with tear-eliciting power ballads, “Congratulations” is a call to arms for the deep feelers. Adkins’ vocals are as strong as ever, but he’s singing at us like a friendly drill sergeant instead of a forlorn pal.
I’m digging this tradition of digging into a new Jimmy Eat World in the fall every 3 years. The past 25 years of their career have been great. Let’s keep it up as long as is healthy for all.