Jimmy Eat World - Clarity (retro review) (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Jimmy Eat World

Clarity (retro review) (1999)


For Jimmy Ear World, Clarity was the calm before the storm. All the pieces you’d see two years later on Bleed American were present. They just hadn’t been developed to the level they would be later. Clarity was arguably the strongest album in their career to that point. While their earlier material had danced between pop hooks and experimentation with a lack of confidence, when it was done here the band seemed to have a better idea how to balance the two.

This balance can also be attributed to opening the writing circle up a bit as well. Suzie Kayayama, who plays cello on the album, also wrote the string arrangements whereas they’d largely been developed by Jim Adkins when utilized on Static Prevails. Another major change, Jim Adkins would take over most of lead vocals from Tom Linton on this album. This change expanded the groups sound, and would remain the norm on future Jimmy Eat World albums as well.

The experimentation on previous albums, would at times sound forced. The band often sounded like they were wondering how do we do this and had to figure it out. On this album, and per Jim Adkins own admission, the band was trying any idea someone brought to the table and seeing what stuck. Some would argue that’s not punk rock, I have a three-word counterargument for people who say that. The Clash. Sandinista. That isn’t to say this album, or Jimmy Eat World, are punk rock. Simply that experimentation can’t be a disqualifier for their exclusion or inclusion from the genre in a vacuum.

Everything about the band was fully realized here, they would take all of this to the next level a few years later. But, this album has influenced everyone from Something Corporate to The Wonder Years and regularly shows up on Most Important Emo Album Lists. This album’s influence is huge, there’s no doubt about that.

Given this album’s lack of sales, Capitol would drop them after its release. The influence it has speaks to how much its songs resonated with those who bought it. That influence can also be felt by the number of sales it had once Jimmy Eat World made it a couple years later. Yes, people will dig into the back catalog of their favorite bands. But, it’s rare that a bad album gains the same respect as the band’s most popular work. Let’s put it this way, there aren’t many people telling you to checkout Bad Religion’s Into the Unknown.

You can love this album or hate and we can debate if this band is punk or emo or power-pop all day long. But, this album definitely qualifies as a classic, however you want to classify it musically.