“It doesn’t have to hurt anymore,” sings Jimmy Eat World on the angelic, swelling new tune, “The End is Beautiful,” and my eyes are also swelling. I’m not crying, I wouldn’t do that. Not here, anyway, in this hipster coffee shop, where tears are strictly reserved for Bon Iver’s latest whatever. Throughout Integrity Blues but especially on “The End is Beautiful,” Jim Adkins’ lyrics fit familiar, like a decade-old pair of jeans that somehow managed to grow along with us.
“You said, ‘However you go, I’ll be cheering you on.
In the end, what’s the difference how it all went wrong?’
Hey, that’s something. The truth is what you believe it is.
It doesn’t have to hurt anymore”
Here’s how I’m choosing to interpret these lyrics:
It doesn’t have to hurt anymore, because Jimmy Eat World (i.e., America’s emo dads) have returned to pluck our heart strings and tell us all it’s not our fault.
Thank you, I honestly needed that. But I’m not crying. You are.
Here it goes. Are you listenin’?
So far, reviewers of Integrity Blues have praised Jimmy Eat World for “expanding their sound,” for “departing,” “developing,” “changing.” OH GOD! Thank you, Jimmy Eat World. For finally doing something different! We hated you, so much!
Okay, okay. Maybe I’m overreacting.
Sure, Integrity Blues has composition structures we hadn’t seen them use before, but seriously? This album is not the drastic reinvention it’s being billed as. What it is this: a homecoming. It’s Clarity meets Futures. It’s “Hear You Me” and “My Sundown” and “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues” and “Dizzy.” It’s everything good about their entire catalogue, compact, clear and satisfying.
That said, let’s get something straight, and I promise to not get off topic too much, but this has to be said: Jimmy Eat World is not defined by Clarity and Futures.
We can move on now.
Get out of here with your Clarity and your Futures. (I’m almost done).
Jimmy Eat World is defined by a larger body of work — a career comprising a discography of incredible albums, cherished EPs, hit songs, some great closing numbers, and also Damage.
Chase This Light isn’t their best album but has some of their best songs. Invented doesn’t have the single it needed to break through, but the deep cuts lure us back year after year. And Bleed American, no matter where you rank it, is undeniably an American classic.
The point is that Jimmy Eat World is many things to many people (favorite band, one-hit wonder, the song from the Taylor Swift commercial), and no matter how we view them we have to recognize Jimmy Eat World as a mainstay of modern rock music. Sustaining and successful. Because it’s been 20 years, and they’re only getting better — not different.
Back to the Review
For everything this record is, it’s important to note what Integrity Blues is not. Integrity Blues is not a perfect album. A really, really good album, yes. My fourth favorite, I don’t know.
“Pretty Grids” does nothing for me, and “Integrity Blues,” the title track, is about as compelling as a pre-flight safety speech. Maybe these songs will grow on me overtime, but for now I only tolerate them because they’re surrounded by gold.
But let’s talk about what Jimmy Eat World did right.
Drummer Zach Lind, talking to Chorus.fm (hi, Jon!), explains their mindset going into this album:
Everything we decided to do in the making of this record was related to the break. It was interesting touring for Damage and then touring for Futures consecutively. We’re really proud of all the records we’ve done. We’re really happy with Damage. We felt like we made a really good record, but it was a little bit of a wake up call when we toured for Damage and then we toured for Futures. The energy was so much higher and the crowd seemed to be so much more engaged on the Futures shows than the Damage shows.
It must be hard to walk the tightrope between recognizing your fan’s collective response and not admitting your last album was mediocre. Lind does a good job here, and his mindset is well taken. He goes on to say that they wanted to make another album, like Futures, that people would want to see performed in ten years. Bravo.
Jimmy did something else in the early stages of this album that proved to be a difference maker, their pick of Justin Meldal-Johnsen as producer. Meldal-Johnsen is an unsung musical hero of the last 20 or so years — from Beck to Nine Inch Nails to Pink to Tegan and Sara, the guy has been everywhere. I’m a big believer in picking the right producer. Here, Jimmy Eat World hits it out of the park. I’m glad they didn’t go with someone more familiar, like Mark Trombino or Gil Norton. They needed to be pushed and I believe they were.
What we get is an album that embeds fresh energy into well-worn grooves. 80’s synth, 90’s grunge, and early 00’s delay-effect fingerpicking wrap around sentimental lyrics that take their time, harmonizing only at the right moments, creating a twilight texture that blends and bleeds.
It’s fucking beautiful.
Jimmy Eat World aren’t just writing songs anymore, like they’ve been doing these last few years — they’re writing records again. Full and complete. Cohesive and atmospheric. With breath, with story, with purpose.
Welcome home, Jimmy Eat World. We’re not crying. We wouldn’t do that.
Integrity Blues is out now via RCA.
Favorite Tracks: The End is Beautiful, Pass the Baby, Pol Roger, Sure and Certain, It Matters
Recommended If You Like: Breathing.