Skip to main content

Rock Solid: Jimmy Eat World

Welcome to Rock Solid, where we pseudo-scientifically determine the most beloved album in an artist's catalog. I've consulted two main sources. The All Music Guide provides the critical point-of-view and Amazon offers the fan perspective. The album with the highest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the best. An artist's entire body of work is eligible, with one exception: No compilations (i.e. greatest hits). In each case, I'll also share my personal favorite album by the artist in question.

* * *

Success stories are rarely as satisfying as Jimmy Eat World's. After getting scooped up by a major label (Capitol) within a year of forming, the band recorded two albums and then got dropped and left for dead. But the band regrouped and recorded an album on their own dime, sold it to Dreamworks, and scored a career-defining #5 hit, "The Middle." Eighteen years later, they're still together, still drawing healthy crowds, and still releasing records on major labels.

That album, released in the summer of 2001, was Bleed American, and it's Jimmy Eat World's consensus Rock Solid. All Music Guide gave it four-and-a-half stars. So did Amazon reviewers.  Its two closest competitors are Clarity (1999) and Futures (2004), each a half star behind. Very spirited arguments could be made on behalf of each of those records, but first let's let the winner bathe in the warm glow of attention and accolades.

AMG's Mark Vanderhoff says Bleed American "features compelling lyrics, driving guitar work, and insanely catchy melodies." Despite Jimmy's affiliation with emo, Vanderhoff labels the music "straight-ahead rock & roll, performed with punk energy and alt-rock smarts."

Two common threads in the Amazon reviews are the album's consistency and its soul-stirring core. "Ron" described the record as "emotional music that can make you dance and feel happy and then the next song make you feel their pain and sadness." In 2007, "Viva" wrote, "I need to see if they have made another record, because I have enjoyed playing this one so much. I don't dislike a single song on this record, honestly." (If only there had been some way for her to learn about the Jimmy Eat World discography before she wrote that review.)

"Clay Bacon" opined, "JIMMY EAT WORLD is a rare accomplishment that stretches across musical genres, the Billboard charts, and audiences of all ages. The young can appreciate the honest lyrics and the power of each song, and while the old may not be blasting this album in their stereos, they can appreciate the great melodic structures of the songs." And finally "Little Willow"'s 2002 review demonstrates just how much Jimmy Eat World have remained relevant beyond their moment in the charts. She wrote, "I strongly recommend this album, especially to folks who like Dexter Freebish, Phantom Planet or other bands in that vein."

I don't have a whole lot to add. Every single song on Bleed American is distinctive - there are anthems, thrashers, and ballads - but they all manage to hold together rather than clashing, likely because the record is perfectly sequenced. It has the songs, the story, and cultural impact to make it worthy of the time capsule.

But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention its competitors. Clarity is a watershed album for lots of Jimmy Eat World fans, and many would argue that it has a purity and range that Bleed American doesn't. And it's not just fans. The WhatCulture article I mentioned in Jimmy's Rock Bottom entry places Clarity at the top of their rankings, with Bleed American as runner-up.

Bleed American's follow-up, Futures, is also a dark horse candidate. I was fairly shocked in recent years to learn that, despite all the hype about "The Middle," Futures was actually many fans' first exposure to Jimmy Eat World. In concert I've noticed that its songs - "Pain," "Kill," "Work," "23" -  get a consistently stronger audience reaction than the ones from Bleed American.

Personally, while I agree wholeheartedly that Bleed American is their Rock Solid, I can't pick a definitive personal favorite. I feel too close to nearly all of their records, so any given day I might mount an argument for any of the above three albums, or Chase This Light or Invented or Damage or Integrity Blues

Will somebody please tell that to Viva?!


Popular posts from this blog

12 by Weezer

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... I decided to take an unconventional route for this 12 by, and pretend Weezer have already released a "greatest hits." Here's what I think that would look like:  1) "Buddy Holly", 2) "Undone - the Sweater Song", 3) "My Name Is Jonas", 4) "The Good Life", 5) "El Scorcho", 6) "Hash Pipe", 7) "Island in the Sun", 8) "Dope Nose", 9) "Keep Fishin'", 10) "Beverly Hills", 11) "We Are All On Drugs", 12) "Pork and Beans".  Here's a different take: 1. " Say It Ain't So"  (from Weezer , 1994)  A little bit heavy, a little bit catchy, quiet-loud dynamics. So basically, it's Pixies lite. The song is interesting lyrically because it's basically nonsense until the "Dear daddy..." bridge, which lets out a t

12 by Jenny Lewis

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... Completely separate from Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis has put together an impressive oeuvre that is very difficult to winnow down to just 12 songs (if you include her work with Rilo Kiley, fuhgeddaboudit). But I've made what I feel is a valiant attempt. Because I admire Jenny's lyrics so much, I'm going to limit my commentary to a favorite couplet from the song. (If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen along here .) 1. "Rise Up With Fists!!!" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "But you can wake up younger, under the knife / And you can wake up sounder, if you get analyzed." 2. "Melt Your Heart" (from  Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "It's like a valentine from your mother / It's bound to melt your heart." 3. "Born Secular" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "God works in mysterious ways / And God give

12 by Vicious Vicious

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... If you need a reference point for the work of Vicious Vicious mastermind Erik Appelwick, the most appropriate would be Beck. Like Mr. Hansen, Minnesota-based Appelwick has the ability to navigate between making you laugh and making you cry and making you want to dance, and embraces genres from country to R& B to folk to pop.  I've included songs from the two albums Appelwick did under the name Tropical Depression, because honestly there's not a lot of difference between that and Vicious Vicious.  I very literally  wrote the book  on Appelwick, so please feel confident you are hearing from an authority here.  If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen to an alternate version of list here  (sadly, not all of VV's music is on the service). 1. "Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor" (from Blood + Clover , 2003) A loungy, laconic come-on