Jimmy Eat World

Interscope, 2010

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


After achieving recognition far beyond their emo roots for 2001’s Bleed American and 2004’s Futures, the ascendant Jimmy Eat World stumbled a bit with 2007’s Chase This Light.  While the former two albums found the band focusing its initial experimental instincts within tighter song structures and less abstract lyrics, the latter took this trend too far, producing a disappointing album that was more sheen than substance.

As a course correction, Invented could hardly be more successful.  Everything you loved about Bleed American and Futures is back—the juxtaposition of airy, emotional vocals and muscular guitars, the evocative lyrics, and the sonic textures that decorate unobtrusively.  Best of all, the album doesn’t simply retake musical ground, it reasserts the more adventurous spirit of the band’s pre-Chase work, no doubt aided by the return of producer Mark Trombino, who helmed Bleed American and the two albums that preceded it.  That spirit is evident from the initial moments of the album, when the introspective yet edgy “Heart Is Hard To Find” opens with hard-strummed acoustic guitar and raw, sloppy handclaps, delivering a fresh and refreshing vision of the Jimmy sound. 

Lead single “My Best Theory” powers onto the scene next as the Jimmys—Jim Adkins (lead vocals & guitar), Rick Burch (bass), Zach Lind (drums) and Tom Linton (lead guitar & vocals)—indulge their longtime U2 fetish with a bold, urgent, big-as-the-sky electric riff.  The lyric is both intriguing and indistinct, searching in a way that both supports and reflects the urgency and underlying tension of the music.

“Evidence” and “Higher Devotion” go big in different ways, with the former showcasing Adkins’ nimble vocal delivery with a complex melody line that resolves into a huge chorus, while the latter pairs fat chords and tight solos with a chorus of stacked falsetto lead vocals.  Either of these tunes would fit snugly onto Futures.

The more uncharacteristic “Movielike” is an appropriately cinematic story-song about moving to New York, opening with acoustic chords and trashcan percussion before building quickly to an epic chorus, cloud-scraping vocal harmonies with guitars chiming away underneath.  When the already elegiac song breaks down at the end to handclaps and Adkins harmonizing with guest vocalist Courtney Marie Andrews (who makes equally vivid appearances on four other tracks, and will accompany the band on tour), it’s simply gorgeous.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The fuel-injected guitars that open “Coffee And Cigarettes” offer a nice contrast, though the chorus again features Adkins and Andrews pushing their harmonies into the stratosphere.  For good measure this rather nostalgic tune name-checks a la Bleed American: “When I finally finished school / It was the first thing that I did / What every townie kid dreams of / I packed and started west / A thousand dollars I had saved / And my sister’s two cassettes / The Dead at the Fillmore East / And Otis Redding’s Greatest Hits.”  The difference here—and indeed, throughout the album—is that rather than residing in the perpetual present of young adulthood, “Coffee” finds Adkins looking back on the past, mixing youthful energy with a creeping wistfulness. 

The third quarter is a trio of big-heart-on-bigger-sleeve ballads.  “Stop” is the requisite J.E.W. wounded weeper (“You wanna hurt me baby / Stop, ’cause you have”), but as I’ve noted before, the guys have gotten so good at these that they can sell even a mediocre lyric with a committed performance.  Faring better is “Littlething,” which features bells and strings to melodramatic yet undeniably entertaining effect; when the bells’ pattern is repeated on piano under the chorus’ billowing guitars, it’s magic. “Cut” finishes the trilogy with another dollop of super-sized, soaring harmonies.

Adrenaline surges again as “Action Meets An Audience” in the punkiest number here, with a hyperactive verse riff and a bludgeoning, distorted chorus riff over a stuttering beat.  It’s a tight, pulse-rattling 2:40 that functions as an appetizer before this album’s main course: the title track.

And what a track it is.  “Invented” starts out over an acoustic rhythm, Adkins and Andrews singing in soft, urgent harmony as bells chime in the background.  The music does a steady build as the pair duet through a beautifully surrealistic and wise lyric, milking every bit of tension resident in memorable lines like “A busted homesteader / Who believes in virgin grace / Somehow I’ll stay proud / Any dick can roll up in a suit / But only I would know what really moves you.”  At 4:20, the song false-ends, then starts again with a gorgeous acoustic/wordless vocal segment that’s a pure wash of harmony, devastatingly pretty, and then the electric guitar comes in over the top, and the drums fill the bottom end, and it’s a moment of pure, epic beauty…  and then it dials back down to just acoustic strums, bells, and Adkins and Andrews, who shimmer their way through a final reprise.  Stunning.

That said, Invented is hardly a perfect album.  It feels uneven in places, and the pacing is odd—three ballads in a row, and the weakest song on the album (the closing, uber-repetitive “Mixtape”) batting cleanup at the end?  Invented isn’t as uniformly impressive an album as Bleed American or Futures, but it’s a strong rebound from Chase This Light, and in the title track, it features one of the most remarkable songs the band has ever recorded.

Rating: A-

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