Review Summary: There's still some living left when your prime comes and goes
There are a lot of quotes out there claiming that life is merely a collection of small, meaningful moments. The nucleus of that idea stems from a belief that our lives are mostly mundane – a string of unspectacular days that end up unified by little more than this collection of defining moments that we refer to as “life.” For me, the saying could not hold more truth over the past several years as I’ve fallen in love, relocated, gotten married, and set foot upon a new career path. I think the more things change around you, the more you cling to those memories that seemingly define who you are. It’s in keeping with this philosophy that Jimmy Eat World has crafted Integrity Blues
, a record whose raw emotion recalls the days of Clarity
and whose achingly hopeful aura tips its hat toFutures
. Over the past nine years, we’ve seen the band craft a celebratory pop record, a playfully experimental yet remarkably uneven outing, and a tepid “adult breakup album.” Integrity Blues
feels like a return to this band’s true identity; it’s the spiritual successor to their early 2000s work. Backed by breathtaking melodies and intimate lyrics, Jimmy Eat World are back to creating the kind of music that sounds like it was written under the stars, ripe for late night drives or for sitting upon the balcony, overlooking the sea of city lights while trying to piece together exactly what life means to you at that precise moment.
I don’t stand a chance against the glow of answers lighting up your face across the pillow landscape.
‘You With Me’ possesses the first of many “little moments” that define Integrity Blues
when looking back. While it boasts a shimmering prelude and one of the album’s most memorable choruses, it is actually the opening line of the song that pulls the most weight. Coming off a series of albums that lacked the emotional factor of a ‘Hear You Me’ or ‘Be Sensible’, that opening passage places Jim Adkins’ knack for waxing poetic about the mundane back into central focus. It also sets the atmospheric parameters for what is to follow: dim lights, gorgeous melodies, and emotionally cathartic lyrics. ‘Sure and Certain’ follows this up by doing no harm – serving as a safe but gratifying single that finds the album at one of its catchiest moments. Focusing on vintage-style Jimmy Eat World progression (verse-verse-chorus), the song wastes little time in reaching the harmony-laden pinnacle. However, the most impressive part of ‘Sure and Certain’ is actually the bridge found just after the two minute mark; entering pianos and soothing ahh ahh
’s to the mixture before erupting into an emphatic and vaguely dissonant guitar riff that almost lends the song a throwback, scratched-record aura. As far as its effect on the entire track goes, it’s invaluable –and it also plays into the overall vibe that Integrity Blues
I think about us dancing, but it’s not something we do
. One of the things I can’t wrap my head around is how Jim Adkins, at least once per album, always manages to make listeners feel the equivalent of musical butterflies. It surely varies from person to person, but if I had to bet on one track to encompass that feeling, it would be ‘It Matters.’ Commencing with icicle-tinged classical piano notes, the song thrives on Adkins’ vocal performance and the various inflections he utilizes to convey emotional shifts within the song itself. The way he sings “with a quiet force I break, I shatter” sends a chill up my spine every time – not because it is inherently spine-tingling – but because I can relate directly to how he expresses himself at that moment, even if I’m not completely sure what the words are about. That’s a feeling I haven’t gotten from Jimmy Eat World in a long time, and it proves (to me, at least) that this album truly means something to the band. ‘Pretty Grids’ keeps the early-album momentum going full-tilt, sprawling across a gorgeous alt-rock soundscape that seems to adopt its namesake as a mission statement. The song’s defining “little moment” comes with about ninety seconds remaining, as the melody pivots from straightforward and resolute to acoustically-driven and vocally abstract…there’s almost a Sufjan thing going on with Adkins’ vocals at one point that is particularly interesting before the song returns to its bread and butter then fades out to an array of echoing chimes. By this point, anyone who’s heard Futures
before is probably smiling ear-to-ear.
‘Pass The Baby’ and ‘Get Right’ mark something of a departure within the album’s context, adopting more of a wholehearted rock
approach than the glistening alternative style that most of Integrity Blues
demonstrates a flair for. It disrupts the flow a bit, but there are moments from each track that make the detour worthwhile. ‘Pass The Baby’ will catch you off guard the first time you hear it, because everything about it leads you to believe that its endgame is merely electronically-driven, somewhat downtrodden experimentalism. However, as the track tumbles further down the rabbit hole with what can only be described as borderline drone music, you’re treated to a full-on minute long electric guitar breakdown. It’s not a particularly complicated solo or anything, but the shock factor alone is enough to hold your interest for the duration. It also serves as the ideal lead-in to ‘Get Right’ – which continues Integrity Blues
’ midsection push for more of a rock n’ roll aesthetic. It’s difficult to deny the results, as ‘Get Right’ swells with a sense of desperation born out of the album’s heaviest percussion and lines like “I’m destination addicted, just gotta be some place else.” While this dual-track sidebar detracts from the overall atmosphere of the record, they function perfectly together and bring forth quality contributions for which Integrity Blues
would be a lesser album without.
Amazing the emotional bridges, tunnels, roads and ways / We go around what’s one step from our face.
The back half of this album is perhaps the strongest section– which is an incredible feat considering what has already been brought to the table. ‘You Are Free’ signals the return of Integrity Blues
to the premise upon which it was founded: confessional-style lyrics delivered in a heightened state of emotional awareness atop stunning instrumental atmospheres. To put it very simply, it’s pretty
. Aside from the aforementioned excerpt, the most moving portion of the track comes with the emphasis Adkins places on “you are free to be who you want, what you need” as if he is parting ways with someone as he sings it. ‘The End Is Beautiful’ sees Jimmy Eat World pen their most emotionally devastating track since ‘Drugs Or Me.’ Structurally, it is more comparable to ‘Hear You Me’ though, rocking to and fro with a gentle but purposeful beat as Adkins’ vocals swell with more and more emotion during each successive rendition of the chorus. Lines like “I never felt peace like that”, “got a picture of the look when I knew I’d lost you”, and “like only you can, you stole the air out of me” all bring with them incredible imagery, as one could relate the storyline to either the death of a loved one or a rearview-mirror look at an intense breakup. No matter how you interpret it personally, it’s a very powerful midtempo ballad, the likes of which Jimmy Eat World fans will end up associating with the equally emotive ‘23’, ‘Drugs Or Me’, and ‘Hear You Me.’ If it’s not quite in the same league, then it’s right outside the entrance to the ballpark. ‘Through’ caps off a remarkable three track run by returning to the upbeat style of ‘Sure and Certain’, although this song is actually far more memorable than the aforementioned single. There’s no small moment or lyrical nugget of wisdom that defines the song, but from start to finish it is the catchiest track the band has written since ‘My Best Theory’, although ‘Through’ has a more organic flow and is not overproduced.
proves that Jimmy Eat World still know how to close out a record. In the past, they’ve always left us with a towering epic to mull over for the coming years until they release something new again. Here, the title track and ‘Pol Roger’ function together as an extremely effective one-two punch. ‘Integrity Blues’ begins with a regal horn and is extremely rustic; it’s basically just Jim Adkins singing along to strings and organs, his voice echoing with power and influence, as if he is standing at the pulpit in an abandoned church hoping his voice will echo all the way up to the heavens. For being so threadbare in its approach, the track is a very fast three minutes and is one of those songs that almost feels too short if for no other reason because it seems to be speaking to a higher purpose that never comes. Enter ‘Pol Roger’ – the nearly seven minute long curtain-call that effectively punctuates the expansive beauty and raw emotion of Integrity Blues
. Once again commencing with horns and elegant strings, the track rises and falls over the course of its runtime while imparting some of the album’s most personal revelations yet: “I walked at random until I lost everyone”…“Are you alone like me? Alone but not lonely”…”Love don’t come to you, who knew it was just there…always.” ‘Pol Roger’ is a befitting end, and it successfully follows in the footsteps of past closers that have left simultaneously in awe and inspired.
If Jimmy Eat World looked back at all the fleeting moments that have made up the best times of their career in an effort to piece it all back together, it would sound an awful lot like Integrity Blues
. The dreamy sensation and emotional relevance of Futures
is apparent here, and the catchier tracks (especially the designated singles) sound as natural as they ever have, at least since Chase This Light
. In fact, there’s a line from that album in which Adkins states, “there’s still some living left when your prime comes and goes.” That could easily be about Integrity Blues
; an album that has in one fell swoop resurrected the career of Jimmy Eat World long after they’ve already seen their best days. Maybe those memories – or those little moments
– never really die. They just become a part of who we are, ready to be brought back whenever we make peace with our surroundings and ourselves. Integrity Blues
is proof of that.