Ah, Jimmy Eat World. Who else can induce such strong feelings of nostalgia even upon hearing a new album for the first time? Who else can take us back to High School and those nights driving around with your best friends blasting The Middle at an obscene volume in an instant?
Fans of the Arizona-based quartet can breathe a sigh of relief after hearing their long-awaited latest release Damage. The eighth album from the band more than makes up for the less than memorable Invented of 2010, with a collection of 10 tracks which are like a more mature version of the old Jimmy Eat World we all know and love.
Damage is one of the most raw and personal albums released by Jimmy Eat World, lyrically and musically. It is a showcase of Jim Adkins’ extraordinary way with words recorded to tape which gives the record a crisp, organic sound.
Each of the 10 tracks demand their place on Damage and deserve a listen every time the album is played. Less is definitely more as the absence of skippable songs or any kind of unnecessary instrumental showing-off produce another simple, anything-but-average addition to their already impressive collection.
If the first track is any indication of the rest of the album (it is), it’s safe to assume that Damage is a terrific record. Appreciation opens and provides a great warm-up for the rest of the songs on the album. From the first raw guitar strums to the perfectly packaged vocals, backing vocals and supporting instruments, Appreciation is one hell of an indicator of the quality of the rest of the record.
The title track Damage continues with the fast-paced tone set by Appreciation before Lean slows things down ever so slightly with a set of vulnerable lyrics (“I can’t stop myself at all/If I don’t lean on you I’ll fall”). A solid track in its own right, Lean is the kind of song which leaves you waiting for something more to happen, and that something more is delivered by the next track, the bouncy, acoustic Book of Love.
I Will Steal You Back is the first taste of the album to be released as a single and appropriately so. The song is a stand-out and sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place on earlier classic Bleed American. Coming in at the middle of the album, I Will Steal You Back is a terrific centrepiece for Damage. After the up-beat sounding Book of Love and before the slower, tamer ballad-like Please Say No, the instrumentally heavier I Will Steal You Back balances the album with its slow verses building to the refreshingly catchy, demanding-to-be-sung-along-with chorus.
Please Say No is one of the classic story-like Jimmy Eat World ballads, not dissimilar to Hear You Me of 2001 or 2004’s 23. This is one straight from the heart with lyrics that hit close to home in JEW fashion (“I had a couple in me so I reached out”…”There’s things I’ve done you understand like no one else/There’s pain I kept buried deep inside myself”…”Say anything you will, except how you have me still/Say anything but no and I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go.”) and beautiful backing vocals.
Next up is How’d You Have Me, which lifts the album back up after Please Say No. An infectious, emotion-driven blend of perfectly timed instruments and flawless vocals, How’d You Have Me is the track to add to your angry playlist and maybe put on repeat, too.
No, Never is another stand-out track from the album and the kind of quintessential JEW song which was lacking from Invented. The song is probably the closest rival to earlier classics with an indescribably similar feel to Kill from 2004’s Futures. The transitions from verse to chorus to bridge to chorus are flawless in typical Jimmy Eat World fashion in what is sure to be an album favourite.
Byebyelove is another slow ballad which again draws similarities to earlier hits like 23 and Drugs or Me. While it’s a sound track which can’t be faulted in terms of its vocals or quality, it just feels like something is missing and lacks the emotion of their other ballads.
Damage is closed by the acoustic You Were Good, a song about love and loss written beautifully as usual (“It could have been but never was/At least the way you thought it’d be when you grew up”…You were good, you were good, and you were gone”…”I’m not who you wanted but you’re still the one who sets a fire in me”). It’s somewhat fitting for this to be the closing track, with its lyrics summing up the end of a terrific album (“It was good, it was good, it was gone”).
When you produce albums such as Clarity, Bleed American and Futures it’s easy for every other album you make to fall short in comparison, but Damage fights its way to earn a place as one of the top Jimmy Eat World records. While the wait for an album to come along and top any of the above three continues, fans need not be disappointed by the boys’ effort to do so with Damage.
Album Highlights: I Will Steal You Back, How’d You Have Me, No, Never