[2 October 2002]
Jimmy Eat World
Photo credit: Chris McCann
If I hated Jimmy Eat World, this review would definitely be a more entertaining read. These guys are just way too easy to make fun of. You can take your pick of potential mocking points. There’s the emo wimp baggage. There’s the silly name that sounds like a nod to ABC’s Ben Savage vehicle Boy Meets World. There’s the not-so-valuable endorsement of Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge. (“Dude, play this to make chicks think you’re sensitive; I swear it makes them go down on you faster!”) There’s “The Middle”, the first rock song directly inspired by your middle school guidance counselor. There’s frontman Jim Adkins’ dopey reverse mullet haircut that paradoxically makes him look like a gamer and one of the rich snobs from Pretty in Pink.
Unlike, say, Interpol or . . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, even fans will admit that there ain’t much that’s cool about Jimmy Eat World. And I am a fan. I got into the Mesa, Arizona-based foursome because of its latest album Bleed American (renamed Jimmy Eat World after September 11.) There’s nothing particularly outstanding or essential about Bleed American. My CD player could eat it tomorrow and I wouldn’t miss it much, save for the times I have a hankering for “Sweetness”. I appreciate it as an entertaining car stereo album and not much more, but that’s enough. The songs are well-written, well-produced and make a big dumb cool sound over the course of 45 minutes or so. I can stand something as painfully trite as “The Middle” because I don’t care what these well-scrubbed 20-somethings have to say anyway. So when I hear them bash out a rockin’ cream puff like “Get It Faster”, I’ll soak in the sound of the fist-pumping chorus and ignore the embarrassing sentiments about not selling out or some shit like that, if you don’t mind.
Of course, hardcore Jimmy Eat World fans take the band a lot more seriously than I do. There were about 1,000 of them at the band’s recent appearance at Phoenix Sports Center at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. At first I thought the youngish crowd of clean-cutters were there after being lulled into a trance by “The Middle” via the Top 40-radio station broadcasting live from the parking lot. But Adkins drew cheers early when he promised to play lots of the band’s earlier, less popular songs on their inaugural trip to Green Bay. I guess the older stuff is more “emotional” than the Bleed American stuff . See, Jimmy Eat World is considered a sellout by some of the hard-cores because its singles are finally getting play on the radio and MTV. But after hearing older material like “Your New Aesthetic” (off 1999’s Clarity) and “No Sensitivity” (off 2000’s Jimmy Eat World/Jebediah split EP), I found little evidence that Jimmy Eat World softened their sound for mass acceptance. Let’s face it, these guys were a little soft to begin with. I think I’ll stick with the dynamic ear candy off Bleed American—“A Praise Chorus”, “Bleed American”, “Authority Song” and especially the aforementioned “Sweetness”, which channels under appreciated big dumb cool sound makers The Outfield—rather than the limp, so-called underground tunes.
Hate to shatter your perception, kids, but Jimmy Eat World didn’t sellout. They just finally succeeded at breaking into the mainstream. Their live show was evidence enough of that. Road-tested slick and loaded with a disturbing number of girl-friendly power ballads (the guys were wrapped around the ladies during the Dawson’s Creek treacle of “Sunday” and “My Sundown”, that’s for damn sure), a Jimmy Eat World show is like a Creed concert with a higher I.Q. and no J.C. overtones. Also, I would never EVER go to a Creed concert, OK?
Like Bleed American, the show was just plain solid. That’s a compliment by the way. People always want to bump solid bands like Jimmy Eat World up to great status because being solid is construed as some kind a shortcoming. It’s not. Great bands are few and far between, but solid bands don’t exactly grow on trees either. And who knows? Maybe Jimmy Eat World will dump the prom music on its next album and load up on some more gooey guitar hooks. So hey, don’t write yourself off yet. It’s only in your head that you feel left out and looked down on. Everything is going to be all right, all right. Who has good self-esteem? I do, I do!