Okay, so it’s an old album. But I have to review it anyway.
First of all, the third track, “The Middle” seems to have been so deeply engrained in American pop culture that every time I play this album for someone, they go, “Oh, Jimmy Eat World – I guess I DO know them!” But while the song is certainly catchy, it’s actually not my favorite on the album. So if all you have is the single, you’re missing out.
There are a few things in music that I am a real sucker for. One is certain singers’ ability to make their voice crack to a higher register – and hit an actual note. The lead vocalist, Jim Adkins, has amazing vocal control, and his voice gives the songs a throat-clenching emotional immediacy. The harmonies are also fabulous, and not as obvious or overdone as those of, say, Bad Religion.
Jimmy Eat World also isn’t afraid to pack lots of variety into an album. While they have a few standard song types – they’ll often contrast poppy, upbeat songs with darker, angst-laced ones – they’re quite effective, and they almost never fall into the rut of having melodies that sound the same. They don’t often vary the instrumentation – replacing electric guitars with an acoustic or adding some subtle synth backing or piano is about all they do – but the melodies and lyrics are original and varied enough that experimenting too much with instrumentation would probably destroy the album’s cohesion.
But the real reason I feel like I have to write this review is that I have to restrain myself from giving just about every song on this album five stars in my iTunes library. While “The Middle” might have the most obvious single potential, there isn’t a dull moment on the entire album.
That being said, I feel like I have to say something critical, and it’s this: the album doesn’t really have an arc, and since every song tries to stand out, none of them does. It’s like a roller coaster that accelerates you to an exhilarating speed, makes lots of fast turns, and drops you off where you started – without really ever climbing a hill to let you see the big picture. But in this age of shuffled songs, maybe it doesn’t matter. The album’s well worth buying for what it is – eleven supremely great tracks.