Jimmy Eat World

RCA, 2019

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The pulsing opening riff of its kickoff title cut signal the essential truth of Surviving: after 15 years and four evolutionary and at times uneven albums, Jimmy Eat World has gone back to basics—at least, basics circa their 2001-04 heyday. The familiar combination of raw urgency, keening vocals, muscular guitars, and alternately airy and dense arrangements immediately reminds of those twin beauties Bleed American (2001) and Futures (2004).

That initial impression is only reinforced as “Criminal Energy” comes barreling in, a headlong, bruising rocker that burns as brightly as anything they’ve hit “record” on since “Futures.” When they move into the gentler, thrumming, ringing, tantalizingly familiar “Delivery,” the message seems clear: the boys are back in town.

The difference, of course, is that while this is the same four guys who made those classic early-oughts albums—Jim Adkins (vocals/guitar), Tom Linton (guitar/vocals), Rick Burch (bass) and Zach Lind (drums)—they have nearly two decades’ more musical and life experience under their belts. As a result, songs like “555” and “One Mil” feature standard Jimmy-isms alongside more inventive touches. “555” opens with a looming synth backdrop, echoey handclaps, and layered harmony vocals before moving into a more recognizable syncopated, sky-hugging chorus. In similar fashion, “One Mil” opens stripped down and acoustic before exploding into full flower as Linton and Adkins raise the roof while Lind bashes home the chorus.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Lind kicks off lead single “All The Way (Stay)” with a stutter-stepping groove that the others decorate with ringing riffs and a singalong chorus punctuated by urgent “uh-ohs” that are pure classic-Jimmy sweetness. In the midst of the song they deliver a verse that sums up the band’s journey nicely:

We get discouraged by the pointlessness
And we're pretty quick to judge things pointless
There's what I want and what I need

And the latter takes a while to see
It doesn't matter how often, how old

It starts with an awkward beginning
I believe that what I've learned has worth

And what I choose to do means something

As was the case with both Bleed American and Futures, there’s no drop-off on the back half of Surviving. “Diamond” is a solid rocker with chugging verses leading to a pealing pre-chorus that triggers its assertive chorus. Then the highly evolved “Love Never” offers an anthem to mature love: “Love ain't some magical thing / Love never gonna be the way you're dreaming / It's gonna seem so far / It's gonna feel so hard / Until you want the work more than the reward / Do you want the work more than the reward?”

“Recommit” is a classicist Jimmy ballad, all airy tension on the verses before releasing at the choruses. Finally, closer “Congratulations” burns hot through three minutes of coiled-tension dynamics before going full-on Jimmy-retro with an extended, experimental, and by the end careening coda that draws the track length out to 6:11. I can’t say the coda adds much to the song, but it certainly shows the fiery spirit of the band is very much alive.

You can’t really call Surviving a return to form, because Jimmy Eat World never lost it; the four albums from Chase The Light through Integrity Blues were all solid-to-very-good. Instead, Surviving feels more like a rededication of the band, a passionate declaration that what they’re doing still matters, that as they hurtle toward mid-life they still have something essential—no, urgent—to say. If this album is any indication, they do.

Rating: A-

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