Release Date: Oct 21, 2016
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Emo-Pop
Integrity Blues is Jimmy Eat World's best record since Bleed American. It was a tough call because I'm a huge fan of Futures and I liked what came after but even I can admit that a lot of the late body of work never felt like JEW was free to make the music they wanted to. Post-Futures, it felt like they were forcing so hard to crank out hits. That aside, I had a really great feeling about this since I saw them at Riot Fest.
Review Summary: There's still some living left when your prime comes and goesThere are a lot of quotes out there claiming that life is merely a collection of small, meaningful moments. The nucleus of that idea stems from a belief that our lives are mostly mundane – a string of unspectacular days that end up unified by little more than this collection of defining moments that we refer to as “life.” For me, the saying could not hold more truth over the past several years as I’ve fallen in love, relocated, gotten married, and set foot upon a new career path. I think the more things change around you, the more you cling to those memories that seemingly define who you are.
Like a city skyline shimmering under a night sky, Jimmy Eat World's ninth LP, Integrity Blues, shines in the dark with glimmering production, a refreshed sense for hooks, and some new tricks to add to their catalog. After the less exciting Chase This Light and Invented, the quartet -- Jim Adkins, Rick Burch, Zach Lind, and Tom Linton -- resurrected some of their pop sense on 2013's Damage, but a piece of the puzzle was still missing. On Integrity Blues, they strike a clean balance between past and present, almost as if they aimed to modernize Bleed American and Futures.
Jim Adkins had written himself off. Judging from the open letter announcing Integrity Blues, the Jimmy Eat World frontman had spent the band’s first-ever hiatus soul-searching. For 15 years, Jimmy Eat World had been judged against their self-help smash hit “The Middle,” and this past April, Taylor Swift gave it a signal boost with an uncomfortably mixed message: “I used to listen to this in middle school!” The expansive, emotionally weathered Integrity Blues sounds nothing like “The Middle,” but it’s perhaps their best record since then on account of being its unlikely spiritual sequel.
“Instead of writing about a problem, I wanted to write about a solution.” So says Jim Adkins, lead singer and guitarist for Jimmy Eat World when asked about their ninth and latest full-length album, Integrity Blues. For more than 20 years, Arizona’s power-pop-emo combo have married chunky chords with lyrical angst, soaring choruses with killer melodies. During a brief hiatus, the band went their separate ways with separate interests.
Every train journey has its perfect musical accompaniment – a fortunate correlation of passing landscape, time of day and listener state of mind that brings new depth and meaning to the chosen record. These moments can never be repeated – any attempt at replication always ends in failure. I’m on the Newcastle to Edinburgh train – it’s just after 8:30am and I’ve been in my seat for about an hour.
In the sonic realm of Jimmy Eat World, change is a subtle thing. Each of their records has its own hallmarks, but they follow a loose script that ensures that any aural exploration that goes on in the studio maintains the sense of wistful optimism that the band's music has evinced since Clarity.Integrity Blues follows that rough guide, but unlike the group's most recent efforts, takes some steps towards improvising a few lines. The title track comes the closest, backing frontman Jim Adkins' "two steps forward, one step back" search for happiness with sombre strings.
Jimmy Eat World couldn’t have picked a better time to return. They’ve dropped their ninth studio album, Integrity Blues, just as the weather dips into chill and people begin reflecting on their lives, as they are wont to do come the end of the year. Dotted throughout the Mesa, Ariz., band’s career are true spaces of slow-burning contemplation, from the majestic “Goodbye Sky Harbor” to the unspooling thread of “23”.
After more than two decades as a band and with eight studio albums under their belt, it would have been easy for Jimmy Eat World to stick to what they know best. Yet rather than going straight from the road to the studio after touring 2013’s Damage – as well as a few additional shows in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Futures – the Arizona quartet took a clean break and had a whole year off from playing together. While this may not sound like an overly drastic step, for Jimmy Eat World it was a change from the norm.
Jimmy Eat World will never escape “The Middle,” and they’re quite all right with that. Twenty-three years on, the Arizona band has yet to match the success of 2001’s quintessential single, which marked their apotheosis from emo into the coveted ranks of the 2000s-alt-rock canon. And yet, rather than distance themselves from it (lest it oversimplify the band’s broader body of work over the past two decades), Jimmy Eat World welcomes its ubiquity, showcased most recently in a playful Apple Music commercial featuring Taylor Swift lip-syncing the Bleed American track.