Consistency as a band is an achievement all on its own and Arizona rockers Jimmy Eat World have remained remarkably consistent through their years together. Now 8 studio albums in, the band have managed to find steady ground when it comes to their output, both in sound and aesthetic appeal. Damage, like its predecessor Invented, is built upon the band’s love for melodic guitar-driven melancholia. It’s all beautiful sounding, yet restrained.
The band’s new found musical foundation is the sound of them turning their amps down from the levels they exhibited on Bleed American, Futures and Chase This Light. Where once there was the distorted, high-tempo frequencies of a “Bleed American”, “Sweetness”, “Pain” and “Big Casino”, there is now the more composed, less frenetic pacing of a “Lean”, “Book of Love”, and the terrific title track “Damage”. It’s not necessarily regression or slowing down, it’s refinement; fine tuning their craft to a cohesion they’ve been hinting at since their opus Clarity.
Lead off single “I Will Steal You Back” is the closest Damage gets to sounding like Futures; equal parts heartstrings and rock-fueled sentimentality. In “Please Say No” and “Damage” we get Jimmy Eat World’s trademark lyrical introspection, with the latter waxing the disconnect between two frayed ends; “Are we only damaging the little we have left? / Both of us swimming in the same polluted mess / Are we too damaged now to possibly connect?” while we’re left again feeling like love has closed the door once again on the previous; “Say anything you will / Except how you’d have me still / Say anything but know / When I go, I go, I go”.
Damages‘ finest moment is perhaps “How’d You Have Me”. The song’s structure, like Chase This Light’s “Firefight”, goes hand in hand with the poetic mistrust of the lyrics and the crescendo building of its music- operatic, and cuts deep; “Only one thing left I wish I knew / how did you have me / and I only got you?” Jim Adkins as acerbic as ever.
“Byebyelove” is one of the album’s most interesting set pieces. The band have never shied away from the grandiose; from the arching beauty of “Goodbye Sky Harbor” and “23” to “Invented”, song’s have been pushed to the limit of both length (the latter two at nearly 8 minutes while “Goodbye Sky Harbor” rests at a cool 16 minutes long). “Byebyelove” has the same makeup as these songs- like the audio equivalent of reaching for the stars- yet as it sounds like it wants to inch close to the momentous, it comes away a little stunted and not something that could have been truly grand. Nevertheless, the album closes on the reflection of “You Were Good”, an acoustic piece that’s both nostalgic sounding, and distinctly monophonic. It is by far the most subdued of endings, and quite unlike what the band have done before.
Like Invented, Damage is the next page in a new chapter for the band. Produced by first time Jimmy Eat World collaborator Alain Johannes (Spinerette, Mark Lanegan), the album is perhaps the band’s most refined effort to date. Working out most of the shortcomings of the previous effort, Damage is another addition to an already impressive and long standing discography.
Jimmy Eat World, still terrific.
(Dine Alone / RCA 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.