Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we sort through the best and worst of Jimmy Eat World — with its very own frontman, no less.
On multiple occasions during the anatomizing of this Dissected, I heard comments like, “Aren’t they just some band from the 90s?”, “Oh, are they making a comeback?”. It’s like non-fans are under the impression that Jimmy Eat World released one major hit song and record in 1999, and then stopped recording or touring. In reality, the quartet from Mesa, Arizona have just released their seventh full-length (eighth, if you count the first self-titled album, but we’ll get there), the mature and solid Damage.
“I was sitting around watching the Grammys,” frontman Jim Adkins says about the genesis of Damage. “And I was watching Adele just clean up. I was like, ‘You know what, she’s an Adkins. I can fucking do that.’ I was like, ‘Okay, well love songs. We’ll just start there.’ And the kind of love songs that always interest me, that I wanted to explore, is the stuff that’s more based in heartbreak and emotional injury. The ‘I’m so happy I’m in love’ song, I don’t feel like there’s a story there.”
Sentiment like that is why Jimmy Eat World has often been pegged with the easily maligned alternative sub-genre lovingly (not?) known as emo. At the onset of a nearly 20 year career, Adkins and crew laid the groundworks for the genre, even if both fans and the band cringe at the label. But it’s not that guy-liner, dark clothed, “I bleed my love for you out to the floor so you can watch as I slowly drown” emo; just the sincere confessionals of an openhearted songwriter (we’ll play devil’s advocate on that later).
Jimmy Eat World has never been satisfactorily explained with easy labeling, however. Power pop, alternative, emo, and so on have all been thrown at the band, but to fans there’s just the melodic guitar rock and emotional balladry of JEW. While not every album has been a smash (though their arguably worst album is also their current highest charter), their discography as a whole deserves to be counted, and that’s what we’re here to do.
In celebration of Damage, we’re not going to do it alone. We called up Jim Adkins himself to get his insight on the band’s catalog. Don’t call it a comeback; they’ve been here for years.
Jimmy Eat World (1994)
Tracks (Runtime): 11 (37:56)
Longest track: “Scientific” (7:01)
Geometry of an album cover (ranking and shapes): Whereas the artwork of subsequent releases focused on shapes, symmetry, and minimalism, Jimmy Eat World stands out with what looks like a home movie still of Tom Linton’s brother Jim noogeying his younger sibling Ed. Ed would eventually get revenge by drawing a fattened version of Jim eating the world, thus providing the band with its name. (Unranked due to lack of geometric significance).
JEWish-ness (just how much “emo” is there?): Almost none. In fact, the band’s self-titled debut is so un-Jimmy Eat World that they decided never to re-press it. It’s gnarled, almost punkish aggression is closest to Static Prevails, but without the contemplation and atmosphere. They did, however, show their penchant for having one song with an epic run-time on almost every album (see above).
Lots of small ideas: Throughout JEW’s career, they’ve made numerous references to other artists, songs, movies, books, etc. They embrace this from the get-go here by titling the opening track “Chachi”. The lyrics, which see Linton asking someone to throw him off a 40-story building, don’t bring Happy Days or Joanie Loves Chachi to mind, but like most of his songs, there’s much to unlock.
Tom Eats World, too! Jim Adkins would eventually take over most of the vocal duties (simply because he started writing more songs), but Linton has a feast on the band’s debut, singing lead on every track except “Usery”.
Should they re-press it?: Yes.
Why? For completism. Solely for completism.
Jimmy Says Words about albums fans love but bands tend to ignore (ie: Pablo Honey, this one): “I don’t know how the band feels about it, but Stoned And Dethroned by Jesus and Mary Chain is one of my favorites of all time. But for some reason, the record just didn’t get enough attention. I think everybody wanted the wall of feedback. A kind of all acoustic record was a shock for some people. But I thought it was great.”
Verdict: While Jimmy Eat World definitely isn’t the band’s best, it’s by no means a bad record, even if it’s a bit “outside” the rest of their catalog. It’s great to hear Linton sing more, and we definitely have a soft spot for its rough energy. It’s got teeth! Give it at least one spin via bootlegs or YouTube, if just for evolutionary context.
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.
Tracks (Runtime): 13 (64:08)
Longest Track: At 16:13, “Goodbye Sky Harbor” isn’t just the longest song on this album, it’s the longest in their entire repertoire by a full 8:44.
Geometry of an album cover: 4th. Four equal squares, four primary colors.
JEWish-ness: For better or worse, this album stamped them with the “emo” label, and so yeah, you can find proof everywhere. The title track’s “Wait for something better/ Will I know when it can be us?/ Maybe that doesn’t mean us”; “Lucky Denver Mint” with “You’re not bigger than this, not better/ Why can’t you learn?”; or just the entirety of “A Sunday” or “Crush”.
Lots of small ideas: The lyrics on “Goodbye Sky Harbor” are inspired by John Irving’s novel A Prayer for Owen Meany. Said Adkins, “Anthrax always had a Stephen King song. I thought why not try going with something I was reading.” There’s also a rumor that the song’s length is the exact time it takes to reach cruising altitude from liftoff when leaving Arizona Sky Harbor airport. The band says they just wanted to use up all the tape on the reel, but it’s a neat theory.
Tom Eats World, Too! “Blister”, which remains a live staple.
Wait, which refrain do I sing? “Blister” – “When the world caves in/ what you gonna do/ When the world caves in/ what you gonna do for me” vs. “Don’t try and stop me/ Because I’m falling fast into this pit of fire which surrounds us all/ In a blanket of fear that I’ve been wrapped in for years/ You can’t stop me.”
What is a “Table for Glasses”, anyway? Purportedly, it’s exactly what the lyrics say it is. In a track-by-track breakdown the band did for the Clarity X anniversary tour, Adkins explained that he saw a woman at a college art show wipe stairs with a white dress, walk to a candlelit table, and pick the dirt off the dress to place it in glasses. Yep. Adkins says the song is about how “there is no correct way to interpret art.”
The 13 minute, 10 second fade out of “Goodbye Sky Harbor”: is completely worth listening to all the way through. From the subtle drum shifts, to the big pay off around 13:45 that sounds like The Postal Service a mere two years before Tamborello and Gibbard even got together.
Oh hai, Mark! Trombino returns with a masterstroke.
Jimmy Says Words about Clarity’s initial reception (specifically a Pitchfork review likening the record to sonic warfare aimed at then-Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic) and eventual climb to landmark status: “Oh man, he also did a review of Bleed American. I think those are some of my favorite reviews ever, actually.
What we saw on the ground was us touring around on our own, playing shows, and every time we’d come back to a city, the show would be a little bit bigger, or we’d get an opening slot for a bigger band. I think the metrics of what people use to gauge success—that was all completely in the background for us. What we saw, that’s what was happening for us. When “Lucky Denver Mint” got into a Drew Barrymore movie—Never Been Kissed—and the radio started playing it a little bit, we saw the label kind of kick it into gear, but we still thought it was funny. We didn’t take anything seriously. It wasn’t a world that we gave a crap about.”
Verdict: Like fine wine or good whiskey, the profile of this album only got better with time. Written by a bunch of ambitious twenty-somethings with their hearts on their sleeves, songs range from winding melodies of young romance (“Just Watch the Fireworks”) to hard cutting social commentary (“Your New Aesthetic”). It saw minimal success at the time, mainly coming from that Barrymore vehicle, but fans clung to its openness and scope, and eventually the critics caught on. In retrospect, the album is a classic, glorious in the risks it takes, the craft it was formed with, and yes, its through and through emotionalism.
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 MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e. 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.
Tracks (Runtime): 11 (49:33)
Longest Track: “23” at 7 minutes and – wait for it – 23 seconds.
Geometry of an album cover: 3rd. Horizontally, vertically, in the image and the words, it plays the “rule of three” like a fucking fiddle.
JEWish-ness: Like, all of “Kill”, from the title to the final refrain/chorus: “I loved you and I should’ve said it/ But tell me just what has it ever meant/ I can’t help it baby, this is who I am/ I’m sorry, but I can’t just go turn off how I feel/ You kill me, you build me up, but just to watch me break.”
Lots of small ideas: Fittingly, “Kill” directly references “Half Right”, a hidden track from Elliott Smith’s early band Heatmiser’s 1996 album Mic City Sons: “I pick up put down the phone/ Like your favorite Heatmiser song goes:/ ’It’s just like being alone’”
Wait, which refrain do I sing? “Night Drive” – the “na na nana”s .vs. “Kiss me with your cherry lipstick/ Never wash you off my face/ Hit me, I can take your cheap shots/ Leave you with the love we made” vs. all those “OOOoooOOOooo”s.
The Phair-er sex: There are no female vocals on any track here save “Work” (“Jim’s on all those backups,” bassist Rich Burch told PunkNews.org. “He really worked on his range.”) The lady helping out on “Work”? Liz Phair. No joke.
“Futures” and “Nothingwrong”: explain why Adkins and drummer Zach Lind answered “Kerry” in this interview without hesitating. Also, how the title track hasn’t become a go-to for Headcount.org or Rock the Vote is baffling.
Oh bye, Mark! Trombino was originally attached to the album, but creative differences forced him to take his leave. Gil Norton stepped in to fill some big shoes.
Jimmy Says Words about following up Bleed American with the harder-hitting, more political Futures: “I was either just having my second child or just about to when we were recording. It is sort of growing up—the idea that responsibility is here. “Hello, responsibility!” It’s here and that means just being a little bit more aware. Yeah, there was kind of a political leaning forming, for sure. But at the same time, it’s important to not present that in a way that’s preachy. I know there’s always sort of a “I am a tax-paying United States citizen, so I have the same freedoms to protest or dissent or express my views in a public forum as anybody else.” But I know it’s not as effective if you have some dude in a rock band talking about “how it is, man.” I wouldn’t believe me if I heard me saying anything other than “make sure you’re registered to vote”.
I think part of it is also about greed. There’s a lot of societal commentary there, too. It’s not just all about elections and who’s running the show. You can tell where our politics are by what we support as a band rather than what we are singing about.”
Verdict: Perhaps this album didn’t attract as much attention as Bleed American because it’s *gasp* darker and heavier. That’s actually a bit ironic, considering songs like “Futures” and “Nothingwrong” should’ve resonated well with angry young folk of 2004 (ahem, the fact that “Futures” wasn’t released as a single until after the ’04 elections probably didn’t help). “23” and “The World You Love” harken back to Clarity, and while “Pain” and “Just Tonight” put an edge on the catchiness of Bleed American. The fact that this record didn’t cement JEW’s status may be more a byproduct of the three years between releases than the material, because it’s a damn fine effort.
Chase This Light (2007)
Tracks (Runtime): 11 (40:18)
Longest Track: “Dizzy” (4:56)
Geometry of an album cover: 7th. It’s a freakin’ peacock feather, known for its symmetry. It’s also a dumb cover.
JEWish-ness: Look no further than the opening track, “Big Casino”, which features the breakdown: “I have one last wish/ And it’s from my heart/ Just let me down/ Just let me down/ Easy”. If you want more, the misleading pop of “Always Be” has Adkins questioning and offering, “How you gonna know the feeling till you’ve lost it/ I’ve been losing plenty since.”
Lots of small ideas: “Big Casino” is a reference to Jim Adkins’ side project, Go Big Casino. In fact, “Carry You” began as a Go Big Casino number.
Wait, which refrain do I sing? Not many overlapping vocals, actually… maybe the last chorus in “Here It Goes” vs. the “hoo hoo”s?
“Carry You” is Underrated: This is the type of song JEW do that would simply not work if done by others in emo, pop-rock, or whatever genre we pigeonhole them into. It’s acoustic-driven, miserable from start-to-finish, emotes and emotes and emotes, and has actual sighing in the chorus. But I’ll be damned if Adkins doesn’t sell every inch of it. The final “It’s passed” he delivers caps a praise-worthy song.
Eliminating the rock from “pop-rock”: Behold “Here It Goes”. It’s set in the real world like Rilo Kiley’s “Breakin’ Up” is set in the late 1970s. Whether that garners applause or disdain is completely up to the individual.
Oh hai, Mark! Uh, see below.
Jimmy Says Words about working with producer Butch Vig: “I think it’s like if Butch Vig is cool to work on your album, you sort of have to work with Butch Vig, man. [Laughs.] Right? We’ve gotten such amazing opportunities to learn from people that have made or mixed albums. Like Gil and Trombino and Butch and Al. Working with Butch, I mean yeah, of course, man. Why wouldn’t you want to sit around and pick at his brain on tour material? It just worked. What he was saying about the material we had—it felt good.”
Verdict: Quite possibly the band’s worst effort. It all starts off so well with the big chorus of “Big Casino”, as well as the aforementioned “Always Be” and “Carry You”, but the highs of those early tracks are only met by the title track near album’s end. In between is the forced dark of “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues” and “23”-ripoff “Dizzy”. They’d made better records, and fortunately, would make up for Chase This Light’s transgressions with a superior record a few years later.
Tracks (Runtime): 12 (51:05)
Longest Track: “Invented” (7:07)
Geometry of an album cover: 1st. Slightly off-center, with dramatic juxtaposition of light, it’s rather beautiful. Plus, it’s the kind of image that inspired the stories spun on the record: is this the end of her shift or the end of her job? What sort of woman is this? And what the heck is up with the nutcracker/pirate lamp thing above her head?
JEWish-ness: Simply presenting the song titles “Heart is Hard to Find”, “Stop”, and “Cut” could make the case, but here are some samplings, in order of the noted songs: “All the f*cked up things you say/ Couldn’t possibly be/ Any less help to me”; “You wanna hurt me baby?/ Stop ’cause you have”; “I know there’s no depth/ You wouldn’t sink for the chance/ I’m sorry, boy/ I’m not cut for this no more.”
Lots of small ideas: A trifecta of specific references in “Coffee and Cigarettes”. Well, maybe. Can’t find official evidence that the song title refers to Jim Jarmusch’s 2003 film, but the other two references are no-doubters: “A thousand dollars I had saved/ And my sister’s two cassettes/ The Dead from Fillmore East/ And Otis Redding’s Greatest Hits”.
Wait, which refrain do I sing? “Heart is Hard to Find” – “It’s hard to find the heart sometimes/ Hard” vs. those “lala lala”s vs. the “ah ah ah”s vs. all that clapping.
Tom Eats World, Too! Holy moly! Linton returns to lead vocals for the first time since Clarity’s “Blister” with “Action Needs an Audience”. Yes, it’s the worst song on the album, but an event for Jimmy-fans, nonetheless.
Best Penultimate / Closing Tracks on a JEW record: Blasphemous? Maybe. But the one-two punch of “Invented” and “Mixtape”, which happen to be the two longest songs on the record, are glorious. The former is stripped-down with Adkins practically whispering through most of the song about (of course) a girl he can’t forget; the latter has a repeating, simple drum beat and piano, with Adkins’ wailing throughout (“You don’t get to walk away/ Walk Away/ Now”). Either could work as a closer, but putting them together near album’s end was a ballsy move that paid off.
Haden-istic: After playing the secret weapon on Bleed American, Rachel Haden returns ever-so-briefly on “Stop”. The majority of the female vocals on Invented are provided by the young Courtney Marie Andrews, who hails from the band’s home state of Arizona.
Oh hai, Mark! Trombino’s back! And not a moment too soon, ‘cause that last album… woof.
Jimmy Says Words about how looking at pictures came to influence the songwriting on Invented: “How that started was just purely a writing exercise before I realized I had so much material, that could be a theme for it. I would just kind of look through Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills series or Hannah Starkey’s untitled prints and just take 10 or 15 minutes to write everything I could think of about that scene—who that person is, who she’s looking at off-camera, where does she come from—everything I could think of to flesh out who that character was and what was happening. I just found that more interesting ideas from the sessions started working their way into songs I was working on. Most of the material on Invented is one photograph equals one song.”
Verdict: A solid effort that blows Chase This Light out of the water. While not attaining the highs of Futures, it may be more consistent than that fine effort. It isn’t likely the band will reproduce the successes of either Clarity or Bleed American, but producer Mark Trombino’s return behind the scenes reignited the band, bringing forth some of their best music. There’s even a dance tune that totally works here in “My Best Theory”. If you believe in Jim Adkins, clapping in time to “Heart is Hard to Find” will keep him and the rest of Jimmy Eat World alive.
Tracks (runtime): 10 (36:36)
Longest track: “Please Say No” (4:41)
Geometry of an album cover: 5th. Perhaps the most minimal of all of JEW’s releases, Damage has equally minimal, yet effective, artwork. The simple image of an umbrella radiating sunlight amidst a blue fog would be at home in a geometry book (okay, a very creative geometry book), and was surprisingly created by Doug Cunningham and Jason Noto at Morning Breath Inc. The former in-house designers of Think Skateboards, the duo typically churns out crude, often vulgar artwork for the likes of Vans and Absolut Vodka. We’re glad they were able to find their inner emo kid and dream up such a beautiful image.
JEWish-ness: Mood-wise, these workmanlike rock songs are brooding and pensive. With titles like “Byebyelove” and “You Were Good”, what else would you expect?
Lots of small ideas: Check back in a week. This just came out!
Wait, which refrain do I sing?: The only thing close to a dueling refrain is the bridge of “Byebyelove”, which features some purdy, wordless vocals from Jim and Tom. We don’t have the lyric sheet, but we’re pretty sure Tom says “huh-uh-uh” before Jim comes in with “huh-hah-huh-ha”. Take your pick.
Tom Eats World, too! Not quite. But his backing vocals are all over the place. He also plays organ on “You Were Good”!
Byebyemark: After coming back for Invented, Trombino’s nowhere to be found on Damage.
Who replaced him? Alain Johannes, whose name sounds suspiciously like Alain Johns from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Both Alains are men you’d want on your team.
Jimmy Says Word about being older, married, and writing a “breakup album for adults”: “The idea of relationships being more complex—that’s sort of the jumping off point for all of it, really. And how I work and think I’ve always really worked is you have your initial idea for something. It could be as simple or as complex or as quantifiable or vague—just something that you pursue, something that makes you feel engaged with it all—and you start asking yourself questions about that. From that, you get answers which might lead to more questions which could lead to any kind of place, you know? And you end up with a tree of information. I remember piecing together lyrics for the first song. And you look at that and figure out how best do I try and get down the tree. And it could be that your song ends up being something that has your emotions and your reactions, but maybe in a situation that doesn’t exist or maybe exists partially in your own experience or partially in someone around you.
I always try to keep it real loose, but there are rules in writing, especially when you’re using something like a first-person speaker. That doesn’t mean me all the time. Sometimes I’m talking to myself, sometimes I’m talking to somebody else, sometimes I’m somebody else talking to me, sometimes I’m somebody else talking to somebody else. And sometimes that shifts around during the course of the song. [I]t’s rooted in observation, experience, a little bit of everything, really.”
Verdict: Solid. The somberness never undercuts the catchiness, and it’s great to see the band plowing through their songs in such an unfussy fashion. Try to keep “No, Never” out of your head. We dare you.