Good ideas are hard to come by. They come and go, come inspired, leave blank, and altogether, avoid you when you need them most. Just ask any serious artist, writer, or musician, because at some stage it is inevitable that their proverbial well would soak up its last drop of good intention. For Arizona pop/rockers Jimmy Eat World, this impasse came in 2004 when try tried to follow a hugely successful pop-soaked album with a collection of songs fighting to stay commercially viable while trying to gleam with the kind of depth the band had reached with both Static Prevails and Clarity. In truth, Futures did boast moments of quality- songs like “Work” best showed the band tight roping the fine line between radio friendly arrangements and the introspection and intimacy of their pre-Bleed American material. Even Bleed American, bursting from its seems with hit after hit, had its fair share of deeply emotive songs (see “Hear You Me” and “My Sundown”), and Jimmy Eat World are certainly no strangers to the concept of writing music accessible to both general audiences and those who actively seek a more personal connection to the artists they listen to. They write pop music that certainly sounds like pop music, but pop that resonates with far greater depth than their counterparts.
It is this idea, the taking of plucky melodies and easy to emulate song arrangements, and combining them with more abstract lyrical and narrative meditation, that separates Jimmy Eat World from your average pop/rock band. And after struggling to recapture the form of their massive 2001 effort, Jim Adkins and cohorts have begun the process of rejuvenation with Chase This Light; an earnestly capable album that is not only easy on the ears, but written smart enough to appease older Jimmy Eat World fans raised on the band’s pre radio chart days. Opening number “Big Casino” is simply screaming to be heard; with an anthemic Adkins metaphorical wailing over razor sharp riffs catchphrases of loneliness and acceptance; “I’ll accept with poise, with grace / When they draw my name from the lottery / And they’ll say all the salt in the world couldn’t melt that ice.” The band then reach dizzying heights with a trio of tunes culled together to end an album of albums- the title track, evoking the graceful melancholy of previous tunes “Work” and to a degree, “For Me This is Heaven,” while the closing “Dizzy” is similar to “My Sundown” in its patient build up and gentle conclusion. With “Firefight” however, the band excels to a new musical apex; perfectly constructing the melting point between lighter fare and the explosive nature of punk/post-hardcore guitar work. It’s scintillating to say the least.
Moreover, Chase This Light’s strongest quality is perhaps its consistent tone- a greater continuity over the album’s songs from beginning to end. While Futures boasted some high points, it was marred by weaker songs that felt out of place and written out of time to the rest. It however doesn’t hide some of Chase This Light’s more subdued moments, where the band appear to dally too long in a given musical space. The acoustic driven “Carry You,” while a capable down-tempo tune, lacks the kind of momentum built over the preceding songs. Similarly, “Electable (Give It Up)” sounds a little hollow; packed with a chorus of empty “woah woahs” while the following “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues,” moody and all, comes across as a little too sullen, muting Adkins and the rest of the band.
The lull aside, Chase This Light exhibits the kind of intelligent songwriting music fans (especially fans of Jimmy Eat World) should demand on a consistent basis. The majority of it is concise in its craft, and near perfect in its execution. Jimmy Eat World may have some way to go to once again be beamed all over the airwaves with such demand, but as Chase This Light proves, rediscovering that inspiration, no matter how far from completion they may be, goes a long way.
(Tiny Evil Records)
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.