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Dissected: Jimmy Eat World (with Jim Adkins)

on June 14, 2013, 12:00am
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Bleed American (2001)


Tracks (Runtime): 11 (46:38)

Longest track: “My Sundown” (5:40)

Geometry of an album cover: 2nd. A sort of predecessor to the photography-inspired Invented, Bleed American‘s cover is a picture taken by William Eggleston (who also handled photography for Big Star’s Radio City), entitled “Memphis”. The symmetry of bowling trophies atop a cigarette machine has a simplicity that, as the album title suggests, is distinctly American, if somewhat ironic given the record’s subject matter.

JEWish-ness: The album was heralded as an emo masterpiece upon its release, even though it technically isn’t emo. At this point, Jimmy Eat World is more rock ‘n’ roll than anything. Hell, you could even call them stadium rock with Bleed American. It’s big. It’s hooky. It’s a summer record.

“Oh yeah? Then how do you explain lyrics like these?”: “You rip my heart right out”; “The sweetness will not be concerned with me”; “A song for a heart so big, God wouldn’t let it live”; “And I’m sorry that I’m such a mess/ I drank all my money could get”; “You know I’m thinking of you/ I miss you”; “This is my sundown”.

Well, if you equate emo with any lyric that knows how to display honest emotion, then most rock bands would be emo. Hell, The Who would be emo. Jesus Christ, it’s 2013. Why are we still arguing about this?

Lots of small ideas: Tons of references here, so let’s begin:

“Bleed American” – Speyside is a single-malt Scotch whiskey.

“A Praise Chorus” – When Adkins tells Davey to “sing me something that I know”, the man in question is Davey van Bohlen of The Promise Ring and, later on, Maritime. Van Bohlen fulfills Adkins’ request in the song, repeating the refrain of “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells, then interweaving it with tips of the hat to “Our House” by Madness, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” by Bad Company, “Don’t Let’s Start” by They Might Be Giants, and “Kickstart My Heart” by Mötley Crüe. Things get even more meta when he includes two songs by his own band—The Promise Ring’s “Why Did Ever We Meet” and “All of My Everythings”.

“Hear You Me” was supposedly written for Mykel and Carli Allan, two Weezer superfans who famously and tragically died in a car crash on the way to a concert. According to Weezerpedia, Jimmy Eat World was also friends of the Allans. This is all most likely true, as the song shares its title with the 1998 tribute album for Mykel and Carl, not to mention it features backing vocals from Weezer cohort (and bassist for That Dog) Rachel Haden.

“If You Don’t, Don’t” – We’re hesitant to turn to songmeanings.net for any sort of verification, but some of the suggestions for “If You Don’t, Don’t” seem pretty rational. According to several commenters from Arizona, Ninth and Ash is an intersection in Tempe that plays home to Casey Moore’s Oyster House—an Irish pub known for blasting indie rock from the ’80s and ’90s. It makes sense that the band would hang out there. “Up the stairs at Weatherford/ a ghost each place I hide” is possibly a reference to the Hotel Weatherford, a haunted, historic establishment in Flagstaff. If either fact is true, the song is surely about love gone sour (and alcoholism?) in the Grand Canyon State.

“The Authority Song” – A love letter to good jukeboxes everywhere, “The Authority Song” steals its title from a John Mellencamp tune that Adkins reeeaaallly wants to hear. What else is on his playlist? Anything from The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Automatic and “What Goes On”. Whether the latter is by The Beatles or Velvet Underground remains a mystery. Our money’s on the Underground.

Wait, which refrain do I sing? “Praise Chorus” – “Crimson and clover/  over and over” vs. “Our house in the middle of the street/ why did we ever meet?/ Started my rock’n’roll fantasy/ Don’t start, don’t let’s start/ why did we ever part?/ Kick-start my rock’n’roll heart.” It’s like six songs rolled into one!

Tom Eats World, too! No, he doesn’t! Bleed American marks the first JEW album without a lead vocal from Mr. Linton.

Hey, is that a typo?: No, the band decided to rename the album Jimmy Eat World in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. Most fans still call it Bleed American (it is a pretty cool phrase), and the 2008 deluxe edition reinstated the original title. Take that, political correctness!

Oh hai, Mark! Trombino’s still in the saddle, and continues to ride to success.

Jimmy Says Words about changing the title of Bleed American to Jimmy Eat World in the wake of 9/11: “It’s sort of a complicated answer. The short answer is that it was our decision. We worked too hard on the material to keep people from ostensibly not being able to listen to it. I mean the song “Bleed American”, for me it’s just a portrayal of cultural, societal neglect, I guess. It’s not at all like “we hate the troops” or people who died from terrorist attacks had it coming. It wasn’t a subversive sort of song at all. We wanted people to have access to it so they could judge it objectively. Honestly, I’ve always been a fan of… I think Social Distortion has like four self-titled albums or something? [Laughs.]  The idea of another self-titled thing was appealing to me, really. You can’t get more objective than by just calling it a self-titled album.

Now the debate is in such a different place. It could be called Bleed American or it could be self-titled. I don’t really care anymore. Either way, you’re going to get the material. “

Verdict: It’s a tossup on which is the band’s best album—Clarity or Bleed American—but many go with the latter simply for its accessibility. Either way, Bleed American is a classic. Every song is a winner, and it’s also JEW’s happiest record, which in turn makes it the most dynamic. Want further proof? Go listen to it.

-Dan Caffrey

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