There are few moments I remember quite as vividly as I recall roaming the aisles of Best Buy, combing the shelves until I came across an album cover of a family watching a nuclear bomb explode on TV. Good Charlotte’s “The Anthem” had been playing everywhere and now I finally held it belonged to, The Young & The Hopeless, in my hands. In my joy I grabbed two more CDs before leaving: Linkin Park’s Meteora and Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American. Together, they’d be the first three rock albums I ever bought.
It wasn’t long before I purchased two of Jimmy Eat World’s previous releases, Static Prevails and Clarity. While Static won me over immediately, I struggled with Clarity for a long time. “Table for Glasses” was too slow and even though the following three tracks were bit more upbeat, it wasn’t enough to sustain my interest. I was thirteen then.
Fast-forward five years: Jimmy Eat World goes on their Clarity x10 tour, I discover Something Corporate is actually referencing “For Me This is Heaven” on “Konstantine” and that while Bleed American might represent Jimmy Eat World’s commercial breakthrough, Clarity is often regarded as their best album. Giving it another shot was one of the better decisions I’ve made.
First, it’s opened my eyes to bands and genres (namely, emo and slowcore) I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Second, the layers and experimentation on this record are absolutely off the charts (i.e. the subtle nuances on “12.23.95”, the 16-minute “Goodbye Sky Harbor” with its crazy shift almost 14 minutes in, the gradual build of “Tables for Glasses” etc.). This is the album Jim Adkins makes his debut as lead singer and while it’s cleaner and more polished than Static Prevails, Jimmy Eat World doesn’t lose their angst. Lyrically, this album is loaded with gems and sing-along moments (what I would give to be in the audience when “Blister” comes on). It’s been years and I’m still unpacking more with every listen.
Yet while I’m challenged sonically and lyrically by this album (you have no idea how much I’d love to capture this sound), I’m equally if not more amazed by its longevity: how do you write music that not only stands the test of time but actually gets better to its listener as he or she ages?