The strength in Jimmy Eat World comes from the fragility of their lyrics. I guess for me that’s how it’s always been. Their poetic words and way they’re melodically constructed has always struck a chord and resonated with something otherwise unidentifiable in me. Their lyrics and music can transport the most immovable soul to the emotional place their words come from and awaken the spirit. That’s what this band is to me.
Every few years I wait with baited breath for the announcement of a new album. Futures is what first really caught my attention – admittedly it was a few years after its 2004 release, but it, in every sense of the term, made me sit up and really listen to everything else the band had to offer – past and future. Stay on My Side Tonight is what bound me to the band; the pure build up in Disintegration still gives me goosebumps. In 2007, when Chase This Light was released, I was 18 and finishing school – in prime emo days and still, to this day, this album reminds me of my first summer out of school with my friends. It reminds me of freedom. In the interest of injecting some shade into this otherwise glowing piece, I’ll confess I was not, and still am not, a huge fan of Invented or Damage – there was just a disconnect for me that’s stopped me from really immersing myself in either of these two albums. I’d love to say it’s more a matter of me being in the wrong metaphorical place when I heard them (it’s not you, it’s me!), but even when I try to reacquaint myself with them both now, it just doesn’t take.
Jimmy Eat World have built Integrity Blues up for the better part of this year – carefully announcing its production and release through their social media outlets and drip releasing tracks off the album every few weeks. I was at the end of a two month stint alone overseas for work (and probably feeling a little more vulnerable and guarded at the same time!) when I first heard Get Right and Sure and Certain. Well played JEW. Well played. Like an ex who knows just the right things to say to draw you back in, I was re-captured and theirs to have again.
The album is a true to form Jimmy Eat World record, but elevated, as each aims to be. I can’t say it’s as cohesive as Futures or Clarity were, but tracks flowing into one another isn’t what I love the band for. It’s the raw emotions contained within the lyrics of each track that are still so captivating. The restless frustration in Get Right is what initially hooked me in (‘Disguised as patience/time gets wasted/now is for the now/so get loud’), but the vulnerability of the lyrics in Pretty Grids is what made me stay (‘Sometimes the right one finds us/Who cares why they do/Why not/We jumped because we could’). And in the grand tradition of JEW albums, there’s a lengthy track (nearly 7 minutes, for those of you playing at home), that just hits right home. And with that in mind, I recommend you grab a big glass of pinot gris and listen to Pol Roger on repeat and just let yourself feel beaten down so this track can build you back up (‘First they’ll think you’re lost, but you’re not, it’s the easy feeling/Yeah, there’s every chance you could crash if you don’t believe it/Why spend more time in a lie if it goes on that way/Love don’t come to you, it just was there always’).
With every new album release comes a whirlwind of emotions for me – contemplation, adoration, obsession, and pull back – the latter comes purely from the fact that I legitimately fear the release of the album will come with the release of a statement of an indefinite hiatus or winding down of touring and recording. When a band has been together as long as JEW, I feel like this is a valid fear and nothing to do with me being a needy AF fan. I almost feel like I should pace myself just in case my fear rings true and gift myself the album in two years when I really need it.
Of course between Damage and Integrity Blues, each member of JEW worked on their own projects – anything between getting in shape via Rocky style boxing regime to collaborating with a significant other to produce an album. I almost feel like the band needed some time apart – to almost reconnect with themselves. In an interview on Billboard.com, singer-songwriter Jim Adkins lamented “the whole experience was re-enforcement that when you push yourself out of what you’re familiar with, it yields rewards beyond your expectation… it fuelled my thinking that we need to not rely on what the easy way to go would be for writing, but continually ask if this is the best way to go about things”. While Damage explored the highs and many lows of an adult break up and the emotional rollercoaster that carries it, Integrity Blues addresses the self-discovery and rebuilding of the soul – “Damage got really deep into the problems, and Integrity Blues got into what’s behind the problem. Whether it might be relationship issues or anxiety about your position in life,” Adkins poses.
I cannot sit here and honestly say I wasn’t going to have a pre-conceived opinion of this album – I adore this band and always will. I have felt everything in my life with songs from this band in the background – a soundtrack, if you will – and predict this will always be the case. I have felt sceptical about some albums the band has produced and released and approached the release of Integrity Blues with a sense of distrust, but this album has stolen me back and reinvigorated my love for their lyrics, music, and spirit.