It's sad that a band like Jimmy Eat World is best known for it's contributions to movie soundtracks. I mean, these guys seem to have more songs on more flicks than Aerosmith. (Though the movies aren't much better.)
The brief history of the band goes like this. J.E.W. releases a bunch of great independent records, which are cool, but really follow the standard pop-punk sound, right down to the speedy drums, and whoah's. They release one last album in this vein, Static Prevails, which is very well recieved, and reviewer-types and music-types both seem to love it, even though it's on Capitol.
Fast forward a little to the release of the remarkable different, and, to scenesters everywhere, remarkably upsetting Clarity, which eschews the punk, and sticks with nothing by ear candy melodies, and pure pop, the likes of which we haven't heard since Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper plummetted to the ground, thus ending pop rock, and introducing the world to the overblown, self-indulgent music of the 70s.
And when I say, "remarkably upsetting," I'm not kidding. The cries of "sell out" went rampant. Of course, no one seems to see the irony of a band who was originally signed for their pop-punk stylings going into a new direction, almost definitely ignoring the wishes of their label, who were probably hoping for another Green Day.
Well, I really liked Clarity. It was one of the best all around pop records of 1999, and stuck in my head like a concussion. That is to say, like a bruise on my brain. It didn't leave for quite awhile, and even though it was at times uneven, the winners, were spectactular, and the less-than-classics were still pretty darn good.
So, after Clarity, they were unceremoniously dropped from Capitol, and recorded their next record, and coincedentally, the subject of this review, Bleed American on their own - using the completed record as a demo, I guess. And, I admit, in my haste to hear the first new material from J.E.W. in ages, I downloaded an MP3 bootleg of Bleed American, which was aptly titled Bleed American Demos. Man, was I impressed.
But I was soon in possession of the newly re-recorded, and apparently, final version of Bleed American, which it turns out, is probably the best thing these guys have ever put out. The album exudes energy, and while the pop is certainly there, there is a newfound urgency in the tone, and the lyrics.
From the blast of the opening track, it's pretty much all hooks layered on top of thick, thick, thick melodic guitar lines. There is a definite emphasis on the low end here.
The tracks themselves are all unique in their own right. The first three, are aggressive, melodic rock songs, but the fourth, breaks down into a slower, acoustic-y number, with lyrics that will touch anyone who's ever been in a relationship they knew would end, but seemed to be denying it to themselves. I've been there, believe me.
"when i let you closer,
i only want you closer
you rip my heart right out
So, after that, we hit the "Jimmy Eat World-song", which is what I've dubbed it, since it has that characteristicly complex rhythm over soaring vocals. I guess you could compare it to the opener from Clarity in the rhythmic elements, but this particular sound, probably what landed them on a zillion soundtracks, seems stronger, and more assured than ever. "Sweetness" is so unbelievably catchy, I'm having trouble coming up with an analogy to get it across. Let's just say it's catchy, and move on.
The next track, was particularly moving to me, as I seem to be losing family members at an accelerated rate (they say it happens after you turn twenty, who knows) "Hear You Me" is a soft acoustic number, with guest vocals from, well, some female singer, and is just beautiful, in it's tone, and the lyrical content. I can't for a second believe that those words are anything but sincere.
The second half of the record, is, unlike my experience with their past records, quite strong, and really fleshes out the musical ideas from the record. At this point, I've rambled on for ever, so I'll be quick and summarize.
A strong, more rocking song, and somewhat of a welcome change, after the painfully melancholy of Hear You Me.
Probably my least favourite song, but not an entirely bad one, nevertheless. It's loud, but it doesn't seem to hit the melodic peaks of some of the others. I wouldn't skip over it, but it's not something I would put on to entice my friends into buying the record.
Another good one, more in the same mould as the first three tracks, but strong overall.
A good closer, but I think "Hear You Me" would have fit better here. Strong, but doesn't leave as much of an impression as a slower one would.
If you hate emo, or the poppier side of things, you'll hate this. If you're into something that you can appreciate on merits alone (as in, not as part of a "scene") then you're in for a treat. The punker-than-thou kids should stick with Static Prevails, but a catalog as impressive a J.E.W.'s can be appreciated by anyone without preconceptions.