Review Summary: The sound of a band running desperately low on ideas...
Oh do I long for those long forgotten days when Jimmy Eat World were an emotionally charged and slightly edgy alternative rock band and not the guilty pleasure they seem to have become. Once upon a time they were more than a pop rock foursome, who’d been around the block one too many times, they were a band who blended effortlessly the catchy punk pop of Blink 182 with the emotional and passionate delivery of Mineral or Sunny Day Real Estate. Now I’m not one to demand a band re-record their best work every two years but I’ve got to ask, how did we go from the untouchable heights of Clarity to this? An album which feels more like one of the many, many bands that have attempted to copy JEW than it does an actual JEW record.
An often understated problem for long running bands is how can one really take their music in new directions after so long in the game. A quick look at the other two major releases this week, Thrice and Radiohead, shows exactly how it should be done, both bands (especially the latter) have time and time again taken their arts into places fans could never have imagined years previously. I doubt that a Thrice fan could or foreseen the Alchemy Index in 2001 or a Radiohead fan In Rainbows in 1994. Jimmy Eat World’s music is for sure not nearly as malleable of Thrice or Radiohead but nine times out ten bands are better off moving forwards and not backwards. On the evidence of “Chase This Light” Jimmy Eat World have quite simply run out of ideas and have essentially made Bleed American part two. A cynical observer could point to the fact that Bleed American was easily their most successful album commercially and this decision was made accordingly but I think that’s slightly unfair on the band.
Chase This Light attempts to mix what Jimmy Eat World has always done, that is, upbeat pop rock numbers and sing-along-cigarette-lighters-in-the-air ballads. On it there are three genuinely good songs, two of the first type and one of the second. Pretty pathetic, for any album but this is Jimmy Eat World, they were once untouchable in the pop punk game; they sat above the pretenders on their sugar coated pedestal laughing down at how they could effortlessly plough out track after track of hook laden goodness and now they’re dredging around in the pit below.
So let’s begin with good. “Big Casino” and “Let It Happen” are the catchiest songs the bands has written since “Salt, Sweat, Sugar” and represent exactly what JEW have done well throughout their careers. Lyrically they aren’t much to shout home about but this is pop punk not pretentious Decemberists/Neutral Milk Hotel style indie. The songs feel a little drained of passion but they are choc-full of massive hooks and still tread a little deeper than most of the bands doing this sound. “Let it Happen” is a little softer than its predecessor and focuses more on a darker verse dynamic before exploding into a huge chorus, Big Casino is just straight up rock and “Dizzy” closes the album with a slower tempo and more emphasis on melody than all out rock, but it stop short of being a full blown ballad.
And that’s it for worthwhile material. I’d liken it to what has become of Weezer, only JEW were never as good as Weezer circa-Pinkerton/Blue Album and never as bad as Weezer circa-Make Believe but all the same it’s a depressing thought that Amber Pacific has recorded a better pop rock album than Jimmy Eat World in 2007. None of the songs are offensive and none of them cringe worthy, but maybe that’s the problem? This is JEW on autopilot; everything is so safe and bland. “Always Be” is a great example. It’s an average song, decent and catchy chorus etc... But it’s just so bland, they must have made this song four or five times already and that’s just on this album alone. Additionally Chase This Light has almost no flow at all with slow songs following fast songs and vice versa, it's completely stop and start from the get go. Good songs could cover up this issue but these songs only accentuate it.
I’ve always been a sucker for Jimmy Eat World in the past and it pains me to rate them so badly, but honestly this doesn’t deserve better.
- First two songs are excellent
- Catchy songs
- Vastly inferior to all other Jimmy Eat World albums.
- Poor Lyrically
Let it Happen