Jimmy Eat World rides the radio roller coaster
By Andy Argyrakis
From the pages of Hear/Say Magazine
When Jimmy Eat World went into the studio to record its first CD in three years, members resolved the sessions would free of record label pressure, sales figures or industry expectations. As a result, the ensuring project Chase This Light (Interscope) has an upbeat persona from initial impression, wrapped around carefree modern rock melodies, buoyant harmonies and emotive but instantly attachable lyrics.
“Our goal was seriously to keep these sessions as fun as possible,” reiterates front man Jim Adkins, phoning in from Disneyland before a nearby House of Blues gig. “By going in with that ease, we were able to communicate ideas more openly and creatively, which was our main goal in the first place. Once we decided on that ultimate paradigm, everything fell into place. Record by record, we’re doing more and more recording ourselves on our own equipment.”
Indeed the laid back perspective and hook heavy results are a welcome return to 2001’s blockbuster album Bleed American, a record recorded in the midst of record label limbo that proved to be its most successful to date. Yet even with all the acclaim, a broadening of the band’s fan base and endless string of singles (“The Middle” and “A Praise Chorus” to name a few) Adkins admits the spotlight’s glow eventually tainted the guys’ perspective (yielding a much darker and somewhat overlooked 2004 effort Futures).
“We were bummed out dude, basically because of the growing pains that it took to figure out how to be a band,” he confides of the superstardom that followed Bleed American. “When it came time for Futures, we started thinking about how big our last record got and began thinking about the [amount of] people that would listen to it when we put it out. There was a lot to deal with and figure out.”
While that project didn’t have nearly the same sales appeal as its predecessor, core fans remained faithful on the road, which relieved a lot of the band’s inner tension and helped bring its original intent of connecting with listeners back into focus. For Adkins in particular, decompressing from the road and sorting out those emotions helped put him mentally back in the game to even more passionate degrees than before.
“I think it just came down to really digging deep and learning how to say ‘I don’t care’ and really mean it,” he insists. “A lot of people can say they don’t care about numbers or success commercially, but they can say that because they haven’t had any. It took us awhile to get to that place, but now it’s just about what we want to do.”
Part of those sentiments shine through the lead single “Big Casino,” a contagious cut that’s just as meaty in the message department. The angular guitar-driven romp draws analogies between literal gambling and life’s uncertainties, riddled with hope and heartbreak. “It’s basically a loser anthem,” Adkins relates. “It’s basically a washed up person sitting down and telling the next generation of kids how it is, sung from the perspective of unearned wisdom.”
Several other tracks seem to jump off the album, from the jarring intensity of “Let It Happen” to the tamer, acoustic-centered “Carry You” and the melodic title track. The latest chapter also showcases the dance pop rhythms of “Feeling Lucky,” the straight forward power pop throughout “Always Be” and the epic grandeur of the finale “Dizzy.” Perhaps the variety can be chalked up to the aforementioned insistence on the band’s own terms or maybe it stems from its fourteen year veteran status. In any case, the pieces of Jimmy Eat World’s palatable puzzle seem to finally be fitting in simultaneous step to please its indie oriented listeners and more commercially leaning crowd.
“I think we’re in a really good place as a band right now because we’ve set realistic expectations,” Adkins notices. “We have no illusions of the industry we’re working in and we have confidence no matter what happens that we can always make records in our home studio. Whether or not there are labels or budgets, we’ll always be able to do what we do without compromise.”
But before jumping ahead too far into the future, the gang insists on staying focused on the here and now, which includes a club and theatre tour to coincide with the recent Chase This Light release. Though a full-fledged outing will follow at some point next year, these warm up dates are allowing the band to test out new tunes and reward longtime listeners with rarely performed concert cuts.
“We’re trying to keep it pretty even and play something off [every CD],” he promises. “We’re playing deeper songs that we haven’t played out before until recently, alternate versions of older songs and newer songs. Long time fans are stoked and people who’ve just listened to the last couple of records are stoked, so we must be doing something right.”
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