ALBUM REVIEW: Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
When a band has been around as long as Jimmy Eat World have – their debut album was released a full 22 years ago – it can be incredibly difficult to keep things fresh. But even though they’ve released a record every 3 years like clockwork since their 2001 classic Bleed American, they have always managed to avoid the kind of routine and stagnation that a lot of lesser bands have fallen into (although they came very close with the slightly ironically-named Invented). Integrity Blues continues that trend, and while it doesn’t reach the heights of their earlier work, it’s the sound of a band who definitely haven’t lost their touch.
Musically the album is a big mix of pretty everything they’ve ever done. Opening with You With Me and lead single Sure And Certain, we’re immediately in familiar territory: both are bright, uptempo rock songs with Jim Adkins‘ emotive delivery backed by Tom Linton‘s vocal harmonies and deft guitar work. But while the latter is more classically guitar-based, it’s the synthpop-tinged You With Me that sticks in your head long after it finishes. That sound is no doubt the influence of producer James Meldal-Johnsen, whose recent work includes producing and writing for M83 and School Of Seven Bells, and it doesn’t stop there – there’s a synth hook at the end of Pretty Grids‘ chorus that wouldn’t be out of place in an 80s film soundtrack, and Pass The Baby starts with just a drum machine and muted bass underneath Jim‘s almost conversational vocals.
What happens next though is entirely unexpected. Pass The Baby‘s understated tones fade, and the song devolves into a heavy metal riff-fest, probably the heaviest section in any Jimmy Eat World song ever, before it segues into the dark, chugging guitars of Get Right. That sudden change typifies the biggest problem with this album: it tries to do so many different things that it lacks any kind of continuity, and turns the potential for a great album into just a good one. There are no tracks that fall flat, but there are definitely moments where the album loses momentum. Acoustic breakup song The End Is Beautiful is pretty if unremarkable, and Through is a paint-by-numbers Jimmy Eat World song that could have been on any of their albums from the last decade.
But while the second half of the record is certainly weaker than the first, it ends strongly enough for you to forgive them for it. Integrity Blues is perhaps the band’s most experimental track ever, a post-rock song which channels Sigur Ros, draping Jim’s vocals, which have been drenched in reverb, over delicately-layered textures of guitar, organ and brass. And by the time the last echoes of the epic Pol Roger fade, what you’re left with is a sense of contentment. No, it’s not going to win any awards, but there’s something here for everyone, and as both Jimmy Eat World and their fans grow up (us included), it’s a fantastic reminder that at least one of the bands we fell in love with as teenagers still haven’t lost their old magic. And sometimes that’s all you need.
Standout Track: You With Me
For Fans Of: Dashboard Confessional, Death Cab For Cutie, Motion City Soundtrack
Written By: Josh Prentice