Arizona band Jimmy Eat World have been around the block musically. Since their grand inception in 1993, the act have gone on to cultivate a sound of their own, and from this, they’ve become true advocates of emotion. And by priding themselves on designing thought-provoking work, their stake in the emo-rock circuit is deeply rooted. Emotional music has taken its blows, it has come under scrutiny as being too ‘sad’ for the modern pop upstarts, but it’s needed, and it still emerges victorious in a scene rapidly changing.
Being a band who acknowledge emotion, who formulate songs tapered around the somber note and tone, Jimmy Eat World are mainstays, and many class them as being the godfathers of the genre. This accreditation comes from the long list of tracks and albums the band have constructed, from their self-titled debut in 1994 to their 2016 release Integrity Blues. None of these records have been labeled as being lackluster, they’re all different and they all channel emotion.
To make it ‘big’ it takes substantial and grueling work. Jimmy Eat World have been around for a long time, but they had to work their way up platforms. Second album Static Prevails did earn the band some credit, but it never broke the glass ceiling, and it never shaped the unit as ‘ones to watch’.
Although Static Prevails did give this young band a boost, it was 2001 when they flew from the musical nest onto the patch where the major players were staking their claims. Bleed American was the record that made Jimmy Eat World captains of emo. The content was refined and defined the band’s sound. From the smack of “A Praise Chorus” to the cathartic “Hear You Me“, the opus granted them immediate access into bigger venues and rooms filled with lovers embrace.
After the brilliance of Bleed American, Jimmy Eat World delivered a more polished sound in 2004’s Futures. Even with the changes, the album did have that punch and emotion we all expect. Lead singer Jim Adkins conveyed through gallant, sober, lyrics, his grievances. Work is a song which gradually exposes the album as a statement of intent. “Kill” is a sadder evaluation. “Drugs Or Me” is an eye-opening assessment of someone cascading into addiction. They’re lost, subdued, hellishly frail, and turning blue. And Futures is Jimmy Eat World’s personal expedition into emotions unnerving core. They bellowed, they struck nerves, but they delivered. And that is all you need from a band that just wanted to rest their heavy heads.
Chase This Light hit the scene in 2007. An album that came to be even more polished, but has become a central element to the band’s catalog. “Big Casino” starts the record off with brazen guitar lines and a massive chorus, taking the listener by the scruff of the neck. Also on this disc, there’s plenty of emotion as songs such as “Chase This Light” and “Dizzy” come to the fore. Chase The Light is a balanced listen, and it surprised many people by its complexity.
Invented drifted in next in 2010. It is a punchy affair, showcasing Adkins’s lyrical dynamism. He’s a true songwriter, taking snippets from his day to day experiences and placing them into a bundle of wonder. Invented didn’t hit ground-breaking proportions, but it is an album of clarity, an opus worthy of being a solid addition. Songs such as “Evidence” and “Coffee And Cigarettes” blended into the fabric well. Those powerful guitar tones and soft vocals intertwined to create an astounding contrast. To be truthful, Invented doesn’t overshadow the records prior to it, but it does display ingenuity. Intelligence is paramount on every release from Jimmy Eat World, and Invented stakes a claim for being their most sophisticated compendium.
Editor’s note: Clarity was the first Jimmy Eat World album I bought, off the strength of the single “Lucky Denver Mint”, which I had heard on the radio. It was the start to a long and everlasting connection with their music. The album celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and to this day, it’s still my favorite.
Back in 2003, we spoke to Mark Trombino, the album’s producer about working with Jimmy Eat World.
The band finished their next addition in 2013. Damage showed that Jimmy Eat World were always stuck to their roots, and its sound is reminiscent of the days of Bleed American and even Futures. Lyrically it is intense, captivating and softer. There’s ballads here, songs of despair. Adkins displays this on tracks including “Lean” and “Book Of Love”. On that particular track, Adkins sings with freedom but also there’s bubbling rage overstepping the mark. He describes a lover who is filled up to the skies with lies, and he craves the truth. It is wonderful songwriting.
Jimmy Eat World’s most recent work is Integrity Blues. The album transports the listener into a world where hatred and good fight. The melody is composed well, and the record as a whole presents itself as a genuine record full of brazen guitar work and insightful songwriting. The act dislodges partially from the acoustic sound and shows us that they can play hard-hitting music. Integrity Blues is a statement of intent from a seasoned band who don’t want to be rubbed away. Songs such as “Sure And Certain” and “Get Right” prosper beyond the rest, and are sure winners. The beat, the melody, the bass lines all meld together smoothly.
All of these records have emotion within their interior. They all naturally bloom but none overshadow. They use the same template, but don’t sound completely alike. And judging by the response, many love the diversity of Jimmy Eat World. But many don’t know the band have been around since the early nineties, the same era as Green Day’s Dookie and Nirvana’s Nevermind, as well as The Offspring’s Smash.
As we look forward, Jimmy Eat World have announced they’re working a new full length. The band recently released a two-song EP Love Never / half heart. These songs exhibit a brash direction and a cathartic one. Both compelling additions to the catalog. It takes guts for bands to be making music 25 years on. Not many bands have lasted this long, not many have delivered consistently good albums, but this unit are different. They’re hard workers and their musicianship should be acclaimed. And being the true advocates of emotion is a suitable title for this forward-thinking act.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.