Fall Fest: Jimmy Eat World

    In “The Middle,” their hit single off of Bleed American, singer Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World recommends: “Hey, don’t write yourself off yet/ It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on/ Just do your best, do everything you can/ And don’t you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say.” The band of self-proclaimed “easy-going guys” seems to have taken this advice to heart by releasing several ambitious albums on their own terms and connecting to fans through a seemingly endless number of lively but down-to-earth performances.

    Jimmy Eat World was formed in 1994 in Mesa, Ariz., when childhood friends Adkins (vocals/guitar), Tom Linton (guitar/vocals), Mitch Porter (bass) and Zach Lind (drums) found that they had a common interest in creating music. Between 1994 and early 1995, the band released several EPs that caught record companies’ attention, and they were signed by Capitol Records in 1995. Around the same time, Porter quit the group, and Linton’s friend Rick Burch took over on bass.

    On their 1996 major-label debut Static Prevails, Jimmy Eat World demonstrated an early knack for melodies and a preference for in-your-face vocals. The CD is emotionally raw and both the lyrics and compositions are unrefined, with the effects often sounding as though they have run off to become a part of a loud and senseless commotion. The first song, “Thinking, That’s All,” is unusually aggressive, with sharp guitars that sound more like the backbeat to one of the Foo Fighters’ jarring scream-a-thons.

    Yet, most of Static Prevails exudes unfiltered energy and seems like a genuine attempt to create pleasurable sounds. “Claire” introduces a gorgeous acoustic guitar waltz that is later upstaged by an explosion of a consistent, pounding beat. The other standout, “Call it in the Air,” adds layered vocals that later show up on the band’s 2001 release Bleed American (or simply Jimmy Eat World, depending on whether the album was purchased before or after Sept. 11, 2001) over an upbeat tune.

    With 1999’s Clarity, the band skillfully avoided the sophomore curse with an ambitious effort that takes the listener through an exquisite, colorful selection of natural harmonies. “Table for Glasses” encapsulates a vulnerable state of unexpected bliss with sweet bells, entrancing chimes and expressive lyrics. With its sharp rhythm and sensitive vocals, “Lucky Denver Mint” has become a staple on college radio stations. Adkins sings hopefully about overcoming drug addiction on “A Sunday,” while instruments, including guitars, organs, chimes and a piano, literally pulsate in their distinct fashion, and still all managed to sound perfectly synchronized.

    The rest of Clarity consists of intricate, lively melodies and soothing, lullaby-like ballads. “For Me This is Heaven” is a particularly touching piece about a difficult parting that asks: “When the time we have now ends/ When the big hand goes round again/ Can you still feel the butterflies?/ Can you still hear the last goodnight?” The same theme of departure is explored in the 16-minute-long closing composition, “Goodbye Sky Harbor.”

    After the release of Clarity, the members of the band parted with Capitol because they felt that the record label did not adequately promote their music. In 2000, Jimmy Eat World recorded singles on their own by means of indie label Big Wheel Recreation, in addition to funding and self-promoting their first tour of Europe. Record companies once again took notice, and Jimmy Eat World finally signed with DreamWorks, a company that releases relatively few albums annually and therefore has more time to devote to each artist. With label backing, the band soon went to work on a new LP.

    Bleed American, Jimmy Eat World’s fourth release, is not a departure from previous records, but is more polished and less experimental. The album spawned four singles, including the hard-rocking “Bleed American”; the irresistibly catchy and blithe “The Middle”; “Sweetness,” which includes ripping guitars and a lot of “whoas”; and the guitar-driven, poppy “A Praise Chorus,” which features a striking, vocally layered interlude that quotes other songs, including Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover.” The album also contains an unusually moody and bitter song, “Get It Faster,” that enters the mind of an adulterer and is full of scratchy guitars and drums that sound like threatening, approaching footsteps.

    “The Middle,” with its fun video that features young adults dancing in their skivvies, introduced the band to the MTV fan base and ultimately helped the album sell more than 1.3 million copies in the United States. Jimmy Eat World toured to promote Bleed American for about two years with a headlining stint, a spot on the Vans Warped Tour and opening gigs for bands like Green Day, Blink 182 and Weezer.

    Their upcoming fifth release, Futures, finds the band working with a different producer, Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, Pixies), and it promises to be an edgier and more eclectic sequel to Clarity. The first intensely rhythmical single, “Pain,” comprises lashing guitars, urgent assertions of discomfort and a throbbing guitar solo.

    Futures will be released in record stores on Oct. 19, and you can get your copy signed by the band at Lou’s Records in Encinitas on Oct. 20. Once Futures is released, Jimmy Eat World plan on touring for about two years. However, before that gets underway, you can experience firsthand Jimmy Eat World’s new music along with old hits at Fall Fest on Oct. 1 at RIMAC.

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