Nine albums in and Jimmy Eat World still has it
Following up the criminally underrated Damage, Jimmy Eat World keeps things fresh on their ninth album, Integrity Blues. Each record since Static Prevails has featured a clear evolution of their sound; not a stark departure, but a map of where they’ve come from and where they are going. Expecting a repeat of their old work or calling out similarities to “The Middle” and “Pain” is nothing but pigeonholing a band that, throughout their two-decade career, has been consistently moving forward.
The production is very glossy and clean and bolsters the shout-along choruses the album starts up with. “You With Me” and lead single “Sure and Certain” are two beautifully executed songs with some of their strongest choruses to date. Even the grittier tracks like “Get Right,” and the shockingly out-of-character outro of “Pass the Baby,” manage to twinkle and shine. There isn’t a single song on the record that feels forced and out of place, something that was not true of their last two records, Invented especially. The band seems to have made a conscious effort to sit down and examine the melodic structure of their songs.
For me, Jimmy Eat World has always been one to surprise with a mixture of genuineness, simplicity, and power. They inspired awe when closing out Chase This Light with “Dizzy,” and “23” is still one of the most emotional tracks they’ve put out. Here, we have tracks like “Pass the Baby,” which fade a synth-driven slow burn into a Rage Against the Machine inspired guitar riff that bursts completely out of left field. This track is sandwiched in between the fuzzy synth of “Pretty Grids” and the distorted rocker “Get Right.” So there is some experimentation being done here.
But it’s the final four tracks that linger. “The End is Beautiful” is instantly a quintessential song in an already expansive catalog. It’s a song about moving on and the mixture of emotions felt and Adkins and company absolutely nail it. There is nothing exceptionally sad or happy about it. It’s real, it’s emotional and it strays from specifics and blame in a way that is relatable, in a way that we may not like, but we recognize and accept. As Adkins belts on the following song, “the one way getting out is through.”
The title track is led by string and horn arrangements and is one of the bleakest songs they’ve recorded in years. After calling into question personal goals and insecurities, one would expect that the title track would emphasize “integrity” here. Instead, have a double helping of blues. It’s a lull after the wave of emotion and a break from the optimistic sounding earworms. It’s visceral and introspective on the darker insecurities that lurk within the record. And then comes the closer, the track most fans have come to (rightfully) expect to be amongst the album’s best. As someone whose three favorite Jimmy Eat World songs are all closers, I too abide by those expectations. And I was blown away.
“Pol Roger” is more akin to “Dizzy” and “23” than it is “My Sundown” or “You Were Good.” It is intimate and grand and on an album made of big choruses, this tops them all. Verses are strung along by airy brass arrangements while the chorus sweeps us up with brash guitars and powerful bass as Adkins sings the shout-along of all shout-along’s. So pop a bottle of Pol Roger, throw on this record, and try to take its message to heart; take the good with the bad and move on before you let yourself be consumed.