Jimmy Eat World - Surviving (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Jimmy Eat World

Surviving (2019)


I always love reading and listening to opinions on every Jimmy Eat World release. You learn so much about what fans think of eras gone by, and honestly, it's pretty amazing soaking in why folks prefer Clarity over Chase This Light etc. To me, they're all great albums but I learn something new every time and when I dive back into the records, the experience always changes for the better. That's the power and magic of Jim Adkins and co. For me Bleed American and Futures are the golden standard, and I might be in the minority who absolutely was blown away by Integrity Blues so it's safe to say that while some fans might not have liked the band's growth and evolution away from pop/indie-punk into more mainstream/alt/college radio territory, the new waters treaded hit home and resonate in huge waves. And make no mistake, Surviving continues down that road, delivering another simple yet elegant rock and roll novella from a band not afraid to embrace tomorrow while still sticking to the core roots of old.

I mean, was it really that hard to see JEW embarking on this journey from the time "The Middle" came out? I'm still at a loss why fans think their new style's selling out because honestly, it's been there all the time since Static Prevails and a record like this is all about maximising and harnessing that particular sound to the best of their abilities. And adding that to Adkins' narrative of surviving drinking and depression, I think it's a perfect mix. From the get-go the Val Halen-like opener (and yes, Adkins said he went for this style to spice things up) is unleashed with the self-titled opener. Coupling this with the '80s-hair metal style riffs of "Criminal Energy" you can tell the band's having fun, cutting loose and paying tribute to their influences, having a fuck-ton of fun along the way. Adkin's voice on the mic (and it's as good as ever) really carries on these songs and you can feel his vibrancy translated in spades.

Now, I admit it gets a bit different on the shimmery dance-rock tracks like "Delivery" and the slow, distorted synth-infused clap along of "555" but remember, JEW have shown a penchant for wanting to experiment a bit over the last few albums. So again, you should be used to this by now, and side note: check the video out for the latter, it's like del Toro and Burton had a baby!

But if you think the cheesy pop-punk is gone, make no mistake "One Mil" has you covered with Adkins recording some of the track's opening on his iPhone just for that grainy rough feel to balance out what eventually feels like a Weezer jam. Throw in "Stay (All The Way)" and you've got something which melodically has the catchy spine of songs like "Work" and "Kill" from Futures to remind you JEW still pays service to loyalists. Plus, you can't go wrong with the sax solo and Americana star-stop guitars here that make me wonder why a band like Blink 182 can't balance sticking to the basics with new territory and create something like this. The radio rock anthems like "Love Never" and "Diamond" are again proof once you stick to a simple concept you can pull it off and JEW do just that. Thematically and musically nothing changes that drastically and as they tweak things here and there for new fans in a new time, you get a band that feels vintage yet never outdated. One that keeps up with the times but can still be considered classic, and this leads to records that are modern yet have a timeless energy to them. Again, the darkness and bleak lyrics of "Recommit" are testament to this because you can tell JEW know how the meld their different identities.

Simplicity is the key and by the time "Congratulations" rolls around with Davey Havok of AFI backing up (yeah, he too recorded this on a phone as Adkins didn't give a fuck for a perfect studio sound), my only gripe is I wish they went harder like on "Get Right" a couple years ago. I loved seeing them louder, more boisterous and in banger mode, and this track has that Jane's Addiction or Chevelle feed to it which makes me want JEW to truly explode with an all-out Queens of the Stone Age rock fest at some point. It's what seeing them at Riot Fest in 2016 taught me, they need to cut loose more and blow speakers apart. That said, I love the tempo changes across the record and while this joint might not be for all JEW fans, I think most will appreciate a band that still feels like art and less like product, and more so, once that reminds us don't just survive -- get out there, seize the day and live.