When a band has been together as long as Jimmy Eat World, releasing as many solid and cohesive albums as the band has over its two decade-plus career thus far, you come to expect certain things from subsequent releases.
And for the Arizona-based four-piece, whose new album Surviving was released on Friday, this means earnest lyrics from front man/guitarist Jim Adkins about the bittersweet elements of life and some engaging songs of alt/indie-rock precision. And hooks. Definitely some hooks, as well as a fearlessness to try new things in the studio.
Case in point: The first song released in advance of the album, “All The Way,” builds up to a totally unexpected and excellent saxophone solo:
But don’t let that make you think the whole album is like this. There is not a brass section on each song, but what there is instead is even better: Some of the best songs this band has ever laid to tape.
Jimmy Eat World broke through the mainstream with hits like “The Middle” in 2001, but the band has always occupied a state of earnestness with its music. For Surviving, the group’s tenth album and the follow-up to 2017’s Integrity Blues, packs in emotional lyrics from front man Jim Adkins, as well as a noted edge.
That “edge,” in Jimmy Eat World’s terms, means guitars, and a few songs on this album are some of the “hardest” the band’s released in a while. “Criminal Energy” is a standout in this regard, blending a charging riff with a vocal hook from Adkins that would’ve made this song a highlight of 2004’s Futures.
“Delivery” calms things down a bit after the frenzy of “Criminal Energy” in that familiar midtempo Jimmy Eat World sound, Adkins’ delivering lines like We realize we’re in a future memory/I can only use what I’ve learned from you to the song’s steady rhythm. This is also “classic Jimmy Eat World” in theme, composition and style:
“Surviving explores some of the different kinds of weights my ego tells me I have to carry, what I see people around me choosing to carry and what I have found to be the truth when I choose to let go,” Adkins said of this record and its themes.
Tracks like “One Mil,” “Love Never,” “Diamond” and “Recommit” showcase the band’s dynamic sense of how to tell short stories with music, while the album-capping “Congratulations” is a beast entirely unto itself.
Spanning a bit over six minutes, the song might catch some folks off guard. A slow build, not unlike that of Integrity Blues highlight “Pass the Baby,” features churning guitars, Adkins yelling some of his lyrics, and group harmonies that give the whole thing an urgent feeling.
Backing vocals on the song come from Davey Havok of AFI, whose presence amps up the atmospheric effects of the song even further, until it explodes in a wall of riffs in its waning minutes. It’s a jam, for sure.
Jimmy Eat World, teaming up again with Integrity Blues producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen, has crafted one of its strongest albums to date — which is really saying something, given the wealth of strong material spread across their ten records.
Fans new and old ought to find something to enjoy with Surviving, as it’s one of the strongest rock records released in 2019, and one of the band’s finest achievements as a creative unit.
Catch Jimmy Eat World on the road this fall:
11/02/19 Ft. Collins, CO Washington’s
11/04/19 Wichita, KS Cotillion Ballroom
11/05/19 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre
11/06/19 Madison, WI The Sylvee
11/08/19 East Moline, IL The Rust Belt
11/09/19 Bloomington, IN Bluebird Nightclub
11/10/19 Grand Rapids, MI Intersection
11/12/19 Harrisburg, PA The Capitol Room @ HMAC
11/13/19 South Burlington, VT Higher Ground Ballroom
11/15/19 Poughkeepsie, NY The Chance
11/16/19 Sayreville, NJ Starland Ballroom
11/18/19 Wilmington, DE The Queen (Wilmington)
11/19/19 Richmond, VA The National
11/20/19 Asheville, NC The Orange Peel
11/21/19 Athens, GA 40 Watt Club
11/22/19 Orlando, FL Florida Man Music Festival *