Review Summary: Not the "changing the face of music" album some claim. Simply a very good quality album with variety via up-tempo rockers, mid-tempo poppier tracks & slower-paced emotional songs.
How often do you hear the statement "You either love it or you hate it"...??? Whether it's a movie, a television show or most likely to do with music, it is a comment that rears its ugly head rather often. I admit that I can sometimes be accused of fence-sitting, but I also find the statement to be over-used to the point of tedium... Especially when it comes to an album. Why can't you love some songs & (for want of a better word) hate others, resulting in an appropriate median...??? And so we have Jimmy Eat World's 3rd album 'Clarity', an album we are apparently supposed to either love or hate!
While many suggest that this was arguably the album that ushered in an entirely new music genre, I think that's over-reaching myself. I personally prefer to look at 'Clarity' as the album which opened up many people's ears to the wonderful musical act known as Jimmy Eat World... A band who could mix genuine rock & genuine pop all in one song, yet not have the finished product sound unoriginal, nor too commercial. In truth, 'Clarity' was not a huge commercial & mainstream success, but it was definitely successful in finding a niche audience to allow the band a future.
One thing that Jimmy Eat World does not do (even though the naysayers actually preach they do) is play it safe. This can be seen right from the very beginning of this album by their choice of opener. 'Table For Glasses' is a sluggishly paced & rather introverted emotional track that is probably better suited to being an album closer. Personally, I don't think it's a great choice as opener & only average in isolation, but the placement is interesting & plays its part on the album by setting up & accentuating the strengths of the tracks that are to follow.
'Lucky Denver Mint' is basically the first single off this album & arguably the track that made Jimmy Eat World known, whether it was via selected radio airplay or its inclusion on the 'Never Been Kissed' movie soundtrack. Full of pop sensibilities, the song is smooth & melodic with a catchy, if repetitive, chorus. Track 3 'Your New Aesthetic' takes the band's sound up a further notch & therefore shows good continuation. It is a darker anti-radio themed song which is interestingly structured throughout its short running time & contains good changes of pace, volume & vocal delivery.
Very much over-simplifying the album, the following 9 tracks are all variations on one of the first 3. You have the up-tempo rockers ('Crush', 'Blister' & 'Clarity'), the mid-tempo poppier tracks ('Believe In What You Want', 'For Me This Is Heaven' & the 7 minute strings-assisted 'Just Watch The Fireworks') & the slower-paced emotional songs ('A Sunday', '12.23.95' & 'Ten'). It may just be a personal preference, but the latter grouping predominantly fail to strike a chord with myself. The rockers succeed best due to their ability to remain melodic, while the poppier tracks balance out the album very well, especially with their use of instrumentation. These 3 songs in addition to 'Lucky Denver Mint' use drums and/or guitar well to ensure they do not become overly poppy.
And dare I forget the closing 13th track on this album, the 16 minute 'Goodbye Sky Harbor' which tries to encapsulate the entire album rolled into one epic song. The problem with this is that the album itself does all it needs to do on its own. Furthermore, some of the individual songs along the way even do such a job sufficiently at less than half the running time. It actually begins well enough, but there is simply no point listening to the closing 10 minutes as it is practically bells & a repetitive drum loop.
This is not the show-stopping "changing the face of music" album that some claim it to be. It is simply a very good album that encompasses enough quality & variety to make it a recommended listen. It plays better as an album than a grouping of individual songs, as each track (with assistance of the predominantly wise sequencing) assist in highlighting the strengths of what is to follow. Furthermore, there is no clear highlight amongst the 13 tracks that should demand repeated listens over the rest of the album. One of the albums other strong points that bears mentioning is the above average replay value due to subtle use of background instrumentation to help make many a track grow on you in a positive way. To conclude, this is very good & recommended.
Recommended Tracks: Lucky Denver Mint, Blister, Your New Aesthetic & Clarity.