Review Summary: A passable listen with only so-so replay value, Jimmy Eat World’s sixth album is a disappointment considering their previous quality work.
Jimmy Eat World is a band that deserves a lot of credit for their past accomplishments. In 1999, they conquered the then little known emo genre with their 3rd album Clarity. With 2001’s Bleed American, they successfully added some freshness to the power pop genre leading to mainstream success. Then in 2004, the under-rated Futures was a darker hybrid of all that they had performed previously. Unfortunately, the band’s next direction has not been so successful.
Whether it was a lack of ideas as to where to turn next, the under whelming commercial success of the previous album, or just an admission that some kind of Bleed American Part 2 was their pathway to greater success (which it admittedly was), Jimmy Eat World have returned to the world of power pop with their 6th album Chase This Light. But to even compare this to the vastly superior Bleed American is practically a crime. What we have with this recent release is a grouping of predominantly sugary-coated light fluff that the likes of Brittany Spears & The Backstreet Boys would consider including on their next albums.
This is not to say that Chase This Light is a total write-off & cannot be enjoyed to some success. Lead single & album opener “Big Casino” could easily fit on their successful 2001 effort. And with it’s likeness to one of the best songs of the past couple of years, The Killers’ “When You Were Young”, it’s almost an unashamed but understandable foot in the door of mainstream access come the year 2008. The three tracks that immediately follow pretty much all try to be variations on the same formula & sum up the album as a whole. But they simply are not strong enough songs to be totally successful. None of them are awful because the band are melodically sound & know all the tricks of the trade to keep you sufficiently happy while listening. But the songs themselves are hollow & borderline superficial, while not having the catchy hooks that good pop(-rock) songs do.
In addition to the opener, the closest thing to a strong song is track 5, “Electable (Give It Up)”. It’s actually a very simple & short song that contains far too many “oh, oh, oh, oh’s”, but it is delivered with such a pace, energy & enthusiasm that makes it far too difficult to dislike, while also being very catchy. But then, in a great example of why track order is so important for any album, the slow & long “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues” stalls any momentum started by the previous track. It’s actually not a bad song in isolation as it has a moody & brooding atmosphere about it which showcases some impressive instrumentation (especially the bass & strings). But its placement is all wrong & it would have been better suited being one of the final tracks, if not the closer.
As if the previous track never existed we get the short & throwaway “Feeling Lucky”, before launching into the album low-point; Track 8 “Here It Goes”. I kid you not, this synthetic sounding dance-pop number sounds like something a sketch comedy show would create when trying to spoof a boy band. And that’s pretty much how it comes off too; An inferior sounding Backstreet Boys rip-off mixed with a little bit of an advertisement jingle! Thankfully, the final three tracks do restore some order as far as tempo & mood goes, but once more there isn’t anything special amongst the trio. “Firefight” does remind me that the band has a drummer, while the closing “Dizzy” does have a pseudo epic feel to it & is deceptively catchy for a slower paced song, but falls short of being anything other than an above-average album track.
Reading back over my review, it sounds overly harsh. This may be one of those albums where the beauty is in the ear of the beholder. And it should be noted that I have spoken to a few fans of the band who actually like the carefree & positive vibe that the poppy music conveys. Some even feel that my lowlight “Here It Goes” is one of the stronger tracks on the album because it manages to break the mould & sound different. But for mine, Chase This Light is a disappointment. If this album had been a debut, I’m unsure how I would have regarded it; Promising or simply part of the pack. But the bottom line is that it’s not. It’s made by a quality band that has been plying their trade for over a decade. Unfortunately, Jimmy Eat World’s sixth album is simply not memorable enough & does not contain enough genuine quality. It is simply a passable listen with only so-so replay value.
Recommended Tracks: Big Casino, Electable (Give It Up) & Dizzy