Jimmy Eat World is one of my favorite bands ever. However, recent releases -- the Stay on My Side Tonight EP and the previous full-length, Futures -- have left me with something to be desired. The new release, Chase This Light, realizes what I felt their last full-length lacked: a cohesive sound that rarely falters into unsteady territory. However, unlike just about everything this band has ever done, it falls prey to what I feel is bad guidance by producer Butch Vig and muffles the band's ability to flirt with soundscapes with an overuse of radio-friendly guitar.
As a fan, I'm over the fact that this band will never recreate the epic beauty of Clarity or the honest angst of Static Prevails. While they've established themselves as a well-meaning pop band, their records have always held aspects of their past tucked away between the singles -- the weary "Cautioners" on Bleed American and the maturing "23" on Futures are good examples. However, here, aside from the absolutely magnificent "Gotta Be Somebody's Blues," most songs have the amps pushed to ten and leave behind lingering harmonies in favor of dominant hooks. The hooks aren't bad and the swinging guitar in "Let It Happen" brings a smile to my face every time, but diversity is a good thing when it comes to these guys.
Other than this gripe, I believe this record to be fantastic. This band has fully realized their potential in pop-rock songs with the idealistic optimism of "Big Casino" or the politically charged, yet slightly alyrical, "Electable." The finale (and personal favorite) "Dizzy" shows lyricist Jim Adkins hasn't let his lyrical style of teenage observation fade with time, as it caps off a record filled with hope and disappointment. While Adkins describes the first song and single a 'loser anthem,' I find it a good counterpart to a genre that too often concentrates only on the negatives of life and love:
I'll accept with poise / with grace / when they draw my name from the lottery, / and they'll say / 'All the salt in the world couldn't melt that ice.' / I'm the one who gets away, / I'm a New Jersey success story / and they'll say, 'Lord give me the chance to shake that hand.'As strange as it seems, and hear me out on this, I find this album very relatable to Planes Mistaken for Stars' final release, Mercy. Both bands have a very me-against-the-world approach to their songwriting, and while Planes takes a very deathly and aggressive look at the times we live in, Adkins keeps his lyrics always hopeful for better days, in defense of love and possibilities.
While this is far from being the band's best release, it is a strong one. I'm not the biggest fan of the somewhat awkward "Here It Goes" and would have preferred "Be Sensible" or "Distraction" (both songs available on the UK release) in its place. I think "Be Sensible" would have really given the album a good nod to the past of the band with this new direction, and while I don't know this, I imagine it was more of a production decision as this is the second record this year that has shown an established band abandon most of their past sound. However, this time I think it works a lot better.
A not brilliant but solid release by a band that shows nothing but class in a rather tumultuous landscape of defeatist counterparts.