Jimmy Eat World

Integrity Blues

Written by: TL on 31/12/2016 15:41:01

Arizona's Jimmy Eat World have been among the most consistently respected bands in American alternative rock for a long time, even though their albums from recent years have been met with mixed degrees of appreciation. 2010's "Invented" went all in with orchestral adornments while frontman Jim Adkins attempted an entirely fiction-based writing style, deeming himself too happy at the moment to draw anything good from personal experience. That script was then flipped on 2013's "Damage", which brought in QOTSA producer Alain Johannes to facilitate a more organic and personal style. There have been no such contextual explanations attached to the arrival of the band's ninth album "Integrity Blues", however, leaving it 'to be determined' which Jimmy Eat World would show up this time.

After some scrutiny of the eleven tracks on offer, though, "Integrity Blues" feels a bit like a collage of different vibes brought back in from various eras of the band's history - Except the faster, energetic tracks that have been a staple on each JEW album since forever are noticeably absent. There's no "The Middle", "Pain", "Let It Happen", "Coffee And Cigarettes" or "Damage" on the album, which first off seems to go for a more laid back, dream rock sort of style, judging from openers "You With Me" and "Sure And Certain". The latter in particular is an early and primary highlight of the record, having a sense of direction to it right off the bat, and a good groove to the guitar signature, which makes you feel like you're in good hands.

Soon, however, you begin to think that while "Sure And Certain" is a pretty enjoyable song, it's not the kind of song you hope to mention as one of the best on an album, yet this starts to hold true, as JEW consistently show off some of their tried and tested qualities, yet don't really bring things together in songs that have you hanging on from start to finish. "It Matters" starts on a cinematic note, with weeping piano and sizzling strings in the back, while "Pretty Grids" has a haziness to it that brings Silversun Pickups to mind, and "Pass The Baby" builds up patiently before breaking out some of the hardest guitar riffing that the band has recorded in a long time. Yet neither of them really feel like the good ideas rally together and form up as songs that you believe in as a whole.

A couple of possible explanations could be, for one that while the band revisit a number of elements they've proven good at in the past, there's little on "Integrity Blues" that feels surprising or inspired, and for another, that Jim Adkins, traditionally a master of singing with a sense of blue-eyed, open-hearted vulnerability, is seemingly trying on a slightly harder, more cynical attitude. Yet rather than find a similar place as to where he's been on past songs like "Bleed American", "Get It Faster" or "Pain", his coldness feels more performed than genuine. He seems more on home turf then, in a ballad like "The End Is Beautiful", which closely resembles the style the band had on the slower songs on the "Bleed American" album, and on "Through", which is sort of a dark horse track on the album, relatively successfully channeling the mid-tempo, nocturnal romanticism of the band's "Futures" period.

The band experiments with a quite stirring, fully orchestral track in the penultimate "Integrity Blues", which, however, shows that Adkins might not quite have the voice type to match such a bombastic arrangement. It then turns back to an elaborate, "Futures"-esque closer in "Pol Roger", where the soft choirs and the sparkling solo and the drawn out finish are all pulled out of the closet for an attempt at a grand finale. Yet you mostly enjoy it because it evokes a sense of nostalgia for back when the band did these things originally, not because these new songs strike you with a similar sense of strong identities. Besides this nostalgia, the other thing the record makes you think about is how bands decide when a new song is "finished". Because while there's something to be said about experienced bands knowing when to let songs be, rather than altering them to death, several of the good bits on "Integrity Blues" feel like they've been let be a bit too early perhaps, as if there's was potential for them to be refined and framed better, making for more impactful individual tracks and a stronger album overall.


Download: Sure And Certain, Pass The Baby, Through
For The Fans Of: Silversun Pickups, Death Cab For Cutie, Heatmiser, Yellowcard
Listen: facebook.com/jimmyeatworld

Release date 21.10.2016
RCA Records

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