Static Prevails (1996)
Tracks (Runtime): 12 (51:33)
Longest track: “Digits” (7:29)
Geometry of an album cover: 6th. Remember the shapes, symmetry, and minimalism we mentioned? It all begins here. Some fans have said that the sideways photo on Static Prevails is a roof covered in snow, although it looks more like a bunch of bar stools covered in snow. A calm flurry inside an empty tavern? Sounds like Jimmy Eat World to us.
JEWish-ness: The aggression from the band’s debut lingers, especially in—Lord, forgive us—”screamo”-tinged tracks such as album opener, “Thinking, That’s All”, and “Call It In the Air”, but there’s also a sense of lonely sweetness that would permeate everything the band touched from here on out. Choice lyrics from the majestic “Claire”: “One last goodbye may last the rest of your life”. And of course, “Episode IV”: “We’ll dance off-time to the songs we’ve never liked/ We’ll sing off-key, thinking it sounds alright” more than make up for the sad bastardism of “And you know, I’ve almost lost my will to live”.
Lots of small ideas: The band ain’t saying (see Jimmy Says Words below), but the lyric “we’ll take a trip of no return to outer space” leads us to believe that “Episode IV” is a nod to Star Wars. And “Anderson Mesa” refers, of course, to the landform of the same name in JEW’s home state of Arizona. It’s the site of an observatory, as well as an astronomical interferometer (whatever that is)!
Wait, which refrain do I sing? “Call it in the Air” – “Can’t depend on honest answers from dependent hands/ Won’t accept an honest answer from an open hand” vs “say the words and I’ll sign off”
Tom Eats World, too! As if taking a note from fans and, ultimately, tour-mates Blink-182, JEW splits the workload straight down the middle between their two respective vocalists. “Rockstar”, “Seventeen”, “Episode IV”, “Caveman”, and “Robot Factory” are Linton’s, “Claire”, “Digits”, “World Is Static”, “In the Same Room”, and “Anderson Mesa” are Adkins’, and they more or less both shout-sing “Thinking, That’s All” and “Call It In the Air”.
Hi, Rick! Static Prevails marked the first appearance of bassist Rick Burch. He’s still with the band, meaning Jimmy Eat World’s lineup hasn’t changed in 17 years. Pretty impressive.
Oh hai, Mark! It’s also the first album produced by longtime collaborator Mark Trombino.
Jimmy Says Words about Star Wars and playing “Episode IV” at Tom Delonge’s wedding (Blink-182, incidentally, has a song titled “A New Hope”): “It’s funny, you’re the first person in a really long time to bring up Star Wars. [Laughs.] It’s possible that Tom decided to call a song “Episode IV” because of Star Wars. It’s entirely possible, but I can neither confirm or deny it.”
Verdict: For a while, Jimmy Eat World reinvented themselves with every album, a trend that began with Static Prevails. Sure there are some clunky lyrics—”and it really ticks me off!” wouldn’t even sound intimidating on a Cradle of Filth album—but the band managed to find a balance between youthful anger and beauty that felt unprecedented at the time. Their second album is a classic in its own right, even if it isn’t as front-to-back flawless as Clarity or Bleed American.