It’s now a music reviewers’ cliché to say that Jimmy Eat World have never produced anything as full of youthful energy and charm as their 2001 breakthrough record Bleed American, but that’s probably because it’s true. The group seem to be the Quentin Tarantino of the music scene: no matter how good their latest release, it’s always compared their early breakthrough, and never quite lives up to it. But Tarantino still made Pulp Fiction after he made Reservoir Dogs. Likewise, Jimmy Eat World have churned out several highly enjoyable records in the last 15 years, and Integrity Blues is the latest in that series. The problem with this, however, is that after a while all the albums (and all the writing about the albums) starts to feel a bit formulaic and repetitive. To illustrate my point, the rest of this review will be written as a parody of the Sirens chapter of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.
Resonate in a different way
Deliberately over-processed guitar tones
The record was positively received by fans
Emotive lyrics which draw on real events from the lives of the band members
Still fell short of Bleed American for the critics
Blend of emo and acoustic rock
Integrity Blues features the blend of emo and acoustic rock which we have come to expect from Jimmy Eat World. On display are dark soundscapes, deliberately over-processed guitar tones, and emotive lyrics which draw on real events from the lives of the band members sung in quivering vocals. However, previous records have also featured this formidable skillset and have still failed to resonate in a different way. Take Futures, the 2004 follow-up to the band’s most successful album. The quintet cast dark soundscapes with deliberately over-processed guitars and quivering vocals, yet whilst the record was received positively by fans it still fell short of Bleed American for the critics.
In the record released before Integrity Blues the band were clearly attempting to forge a dark soundscape which resonates in a different way than previous records. Ultimately this attempted blend of emo and acoustic rock still fell short of Bleed American for the critics. To some extent, Integrity Blues remains trapped in that same state of trying to escape the influence of previous records. The quivering vocals and over-processed guitar tones attest to (an enjoyable, but) well-trodden path.
Jimmy Eat World are rarely stuck for inspiration, and towards the end of the previous decade, released two albums – Chase This Light, and Invented – in quick succession. Both of which achieved the quintessential blend of emo and acoustic rock which we hear on Integrity Blues, and both feature the dark soundscapes and quivering vocals which are clearly evident in the latest release as well. However, whilst both records were positively received by fans, neither resonated in a different way with audiences, and this remains a risk with Integrity Blues. With its emotive lyrics which draw on real events from the lives of the band members, the record may break hitherto untrodden ground. But if the responses to the band’s previous records are anything to go by, it may still fall short of Bleed American for the critics.
Like previous records then, Integrity Blues offers a blend of emo and acoustic rock with dark soundscapes, deliberately over-processed guitar tones, and quivering vocals singing emotive lyrics which draw on real events from the lives of the band members. However, whilst these records were positively received by fans, they still fell short of Bleed American for the critics. Only time will tell if this latest offering resonates in a different way.