Jimmy Eat World
Surviving


4.3
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
October 10th, 2019 | 600 replies


Release Date: 10/18/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A future memory.

Any time that I try to pinpoint Jimmy Eat World’s core essence – or what has enabled them to hold my interest over the course of ten albums and twenty-five years – my answer typically comes back to the emotion behind their music. Their material is very catchy, sure, but that’s what wins over ears – not hearts. Some may shroud this effect in mystique by referencing the “it” factor when describing one of their favorite bands. Exactly what “it” is can change from person to person, but for me it’s an artist’s ability to write music that you can create memories to. If I can recall exactly where I was and who I was with the first time I ever spun a record, that’s what separates it from the thousands of others that have passed through my ears. In a recent interview with NME, frontman Jim Adkins described the band’s approach to making music in a way that neatly summarized my longstanding appreciation for their craft: “We’re not chasing anything, we’re not trying to present something that isn’t authentically what we’re into…what we’re presenting is at least coming from a place of honesty.” It’s precisely for this reason that even my least favorite Jimmy Eat World records still hold at least some personal value to me and, moreover, it’s why my favorite albums of theirs are absolute classics.

So where does Surviving land on that spectrum? Before I delve into that, it’s important to note that the band’s tenth full-length represents an interesting curve in their trajectory. Rather than riding the wave of critical success that was garnered by Integrity Blues, here Jimmy Eat World opts for something less glazed and polished. Their last effort floated in on shimmering acoustics and soaring, ethereal vocals, but Surviving cuts right to the chase with very down-to-earth electric chords and familiar, memorable song structures. With a group as renowned as Jimmy Eat World, there’s always a tradeoff to be had. Fans of the group’s most infectious pop-rock tunes might hail this as a “return to form”, while disciples of their moodier, atmospheric side (a la Futures or Integrity Blues) will inevitably see it as two steps backwards. It’s this kind of catch-22 that makes loyalty to their own intentions so important, because there’s never going to be an all-in-one Jimmy Eat World record that will please team Clarity, team Futures, team Chase This Light, and so on. To that tune, Surviving is very much its own animal, and to pull a “sounds like” comparison would be a cop out. It may be stripped down, but it’s a Jimmy Eat World album through and through, and that means that if you spend enough time with it you’re almost certainly going to love it.

One of my favorite lines on the entire album comes courtesy of ‘Delivery’, and it feeds right into feelings of nostalgia: “I know I’m dreaming but it feels too good to stop, the picture in my head is always moving / We’re alone at sunset, there's snowfall in air - it’s only special once cause there’s an ending / And we realize we’re in a future memory.” Vivid lyrics like this have helped cement Jimmy Eat World as one of the best emo rock bands around for decades, and Surviving offers no shortage of quotable gems. I couldn’t help but to immediately connect to this particular passage, because it’s how I feel about all Jimmy Eat World albums – every time I listen to one for the first time, I realize I’m "in a future memory” in the exact same sense that Adkins sings about; it’s this surreal still-frame where you don’t know specifically how, but that the moment is going to end up being important. As I play Surviving on repeat over long drives throughout this Fall and Winter, the album and its lyrics will begin to stick to particular images, places, and people. That’s part of Jimmy Eat World’s magic – each album is its own snow globe with memories floating around inside of them. Surviving is still very young, but it’s already gathering some flakes.

Musically, Surviving is a bit of a throwback. Two out of Jimmy Eat World’s last three albums (Invented, Integrity Blues) were very toned down, melodic, and beautiful. This time, the band took a different approach entirely: the tempo is faster – somewhere between Damage and Chase This Light – and gone are the otherworldly atmospheres and electronic frills that admittedly made Integrity Blues a far prettier – and arguably superior – record. With that said, “pretty” doesn’t feel like the objective here: ‘Criminal Energy’ is as straightforward of a rock n’ roll track as they’ve ever recorded, ‘All The Way (Stay)’ features a classic emo-rock charm that could have fit in on Bleed American, and ‘Love Never’ features one of the coolest guitar bends since ‘I Will Steal You Back.’ Surviving’s contrast is very much intentional; Adkins stated prior to the album’s release that “on Integrity Blues the philosophy was ‘more is more’ – for Surviving, we sort of stripped away everything you don’t need.” This informs why much of the record sounds like unembellished framework; you have your guitars, drums, and vocal hooks – and the rest was sacrificed in order to maintain a certain level of rawness and simplicity. The production value lifts the aesthetics above the likes of Clarity or Static Prevails, but when held against the atmospheric glow of Futures or Integrity Blues, it admittedly sounds very by-the-books. There’s a different kind of charm that comes with that approach, but if you’re looking for a ‘23’ or ‘Pol Roger’, you’ll likely come up empty-handed.

Surviving isn’t without a few tricks up its sleeve, however. The saxophone solo on ‘All The Way’ is one of them, which comes courtesy of Fitz and the Tantrums' James King. ‘555’ is almost an Infinity On High Fall Out Boy song – soulful, vocal-centric, a tad repetitive, and featuring some falsetto. It feels like the sort of song that Chase This Light’s gleeful posturing hinted at, but that they’ve never really had the confidence to pull off until now. It’s not going to please everyone – in fact I’m quite sure of the opposite – but it’s nevertheless an interesting departure from the band’s staple sound. The biggest surprise of all comes in the final moments of the six minute closer ‘Congratulations’, where Jimmy Eat World basically transforms into a thrash metal band over the course of an epic, gritty, minute-long breakdown. It feels like an evolved version of ‘Pass the Baby’, which also featured a heavily distorted, Rage Against the Machine inspired outro. It’s easily the heaviest that Jimmy Eat World has ever sounded. Thus, for as consistently rewarding as the band’s trademark sound is, they prove that they can extend their reach into unfamiliar territory and still thrive.

The rest of Surviving is composed of songs that pretty much fit the bill for what you might expect no-frills, memorable Jimmy to sound like. The opener/title track has one of the best sing-along choruses, and the band exercises admirable restraint in not allowing it to poke its head through until the second half of the song. ‘One Mil’ begins as a romantically-struck acoustic ballad that erupts into an anthem for the introverted: “You still there? If I look you’ll disappear – or worse you might want to talk” / “I’ve tried but I can waste one million chances before you’re gone, before I get your name.” It’s the kind of song that should become an instant classic live. ‘Diamond’ has a thoughtful urgency to it that helps to propel the album’s late-half momentum, and the wistful, penultimate ‘Recommit’ features the most breathtaking vocal inflection/melody here. Not all the songs on Surviving offer major departures, and the record is better for it. Having a reliable foundation helps to steady the ship when they do decide to take bigger risks, while also proving that the band is indeed loyal to their own intentions. In other words, they don’t needlessly feign experimentation. Everything, again, comes from a place of honesty – and their authenticity can be felt throughout the core of Surviving.

Surviving is something of a misleading title for Jimmy Eat World’s tenth full-length album, because the implication is that their head is barely above water; that they’re doing just enough to get by. This has never been a bare minimum kind of band – they pour their heart into every album and that’s something that hasn’t changed since their debut hit shelves in 1994. A better title might have been Thriving, because this record continues their remarkably consistent run and proves that they are still very much at, or at least near, the top of their game. The intentional scaling back of ambition in the studio might leave something to be desired from an atmospheric/aesthetic standpoint, but otherwise Jimmy Eat World continues to churn out superbly written, insanely memorable alt-rock like it’s effortless. Enjoy another round of memories, on them.




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user ratings (179)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowhaus
October 10th 2019


2792 Comments


I had no idea they had anything new in the works. This month just keeps getting better and better. Can't wait to jam this. Great band. Excellent review too brother

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 10th 2019


1045 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i was already excited to hear this, and your review has only increased my excitement. well done.

bananatossing
October 10th 2019


1015 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This released already? That was fast!



Nice review, btw. I'm gonna listen asap.



Edit: Oh, we are a week from release date. Got too excited there.

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 10th 2019


32686 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Sorry to mislead anyone, but this was a promotional copy. It officially drops a week from tomorrow.

Thanks Row/Chan/Banana. I prefer the atmospheric vibe they went for on Futures/Integrity Blues to this stripped down and more by-the-numbers stuff, but it's still got excellent vocals, lyrics, and melodies. I'm a JEW fanboy so even at a 4.3, this probably rates somewhere in the middle of their discog for me personally. It's definitely better than Damage, Static Prevails, their debut, and probably also Chase This Light. I'll have to see if it climbs higher than that with time, but my initial take is that it has no shot at touching Futures, Integrity Blues, or Bleed American as my holy trinity. This is very much in the "solid Jimmy album with room to grow" camp.

Digging: Low Roar - ross.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
October 10th 2019


8731 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Doesn’t drop til next week

Hyped

Digging: FKA Twigs - Magdalene

Eons
October 10th 2019


2421 Comments


I agree with your initial thoughts in the review. This is one of the bands that came out of that whole ''indie emo pop rock'' whatever the hell you want to call it scene, that never felt contrived or fake. Sometimes the songs were so honest and sort of endearing that they were actually hard to listen to. It's like they capture teenage/college aged love over and over again.

It's probably not many people's favorite JEW song, but I always thought the chorus to ''Always Be'' was extremely honest and yet sad. Their sound is sometimes upbeat but still sad. And of course, Lucky Denver Mint's chorus is much the same from their album Clarity. Still my favorite song of theirs. They have a way with choruses.

I do sort of wish they had more ''experimental'' songs on their newer work like the song ''23'' which seems to not really have much of a structure but instead just builds slowly into an emotional avalanche. That song is pretty long and also hard to listen to, as I mentioned before sometimes I avoid listening to this band because they can put me in a sad mood quick.

Larkinhill
October 10th 2019


5159 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

23 is their best song imo (though I still need to check Damage and IB, currently going thru their discog and I’m at Invented)



Great review sowing! Really looking forward to this.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
October 10th 2019


8731 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

IB might honestly be their best

Eons
October 10th 2019


2421 Comments


It's their most powerful song, emotionally for sure. But I'm not sure I'd want to listen to it that often. It'd make things really dark to hear it too often.

Larkinhill
October 10th 2019


5159 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Clarity is my favorite so far, Futures is 2nd.

Faraudo
October 10th 2019


3271 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Easy AOTY

Digging: Leprous - Pitfalls

Lucman
October 10th 2019


3484 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I'm so excited to jam this. Love everything JEW does.

Digging: Greet Death - New Hell

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 10th 2019


32686 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

IB might honestly be their best [2]



blastOFFitsPARTYtime
October 10th 2019


1865 Comments


Futures is easily their best for me (caught it live in its entirety a few years ago - the best)!

Excited to spin this though, sounds dece.

Digging: Proper. - I Spent the Winter Writing Songs About Getting Bet

Lender
October 10th 2019


131 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hard one for me. Toss up between Clarity and Futures. It depends on what mood I’m in.

Larkinhill
October 10th 2019


5159 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I’m definitely looking forward to IB the most out of my three remaining jew albums.

minty901
October 10th 2019


3909 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think you could almost view IB as a more successful version of the kind of album they were attempting to make on Invented. So if you like Invented I think you'll love IB.

minty901
October 10th 2019


3909 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Does anyone want to send me this album? I won't leak it, I promise. Band has my utter devotion. Thanks! (Ok yes I know that's not going to work...)

Lucman
October 10th 2019


3484 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I was actually kinda lukewarm on IB at first. I grew to adore it over time (bumped it to a 5 only recently) but I don't think it's one of their most immediate albums. I'm glad this is going to be a return to their more rock-oriented style. Invented to IB is a beautiful but slow and melancholic string of albums.

veninblazer
October 10th 2019


10186 Comments


can people stop acronymizing (idc if it isn't a word, i'm using it anyway) this band

Digging: Norma Jean - All Hail



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