Jimmy Eat World
1999; r: 2007
ey there, Encyclopedia Brown: ever wonder the real reason as to why Weezer couldn’t put it together in the late ‘90s and follow up Pinkerton? Clarity. I mean, it has to be, right? After hearing Jimmy Eat World’s 1999 masterpiece, Rivers Cuomo undoubtedly went back to the drawing board and—rightfully—started writing the Trapper Keeper full of pop songs that he drew from for their next two pop-tastic messes.
Probably not, but the fact remains that Clarity was what Pinkerton might’ve sounded like if it had been cleaned up and given stuff like six-part harmonies, string-laden bridges, and a dollop of tasteful electronica. In other words, it’s a recipe for absolute disaster and a rabid critical reaction. But, to those who grew up idolizing the Sex Pistols rather than PiL or (shock!) those who can regard each as great at the same time, Clarity is in fact a minor masterpiece—a product of its time and as important to modern emo as Pinkerton. Bear with us.
Most great music is an incredible balancing act: If the Beatles had leaned much further towards the conceptual on Sgt. Pepper, we’d get (more) people claiming it a pretentious failure. Clarity, of course, is no Sgt. Pepper, but the analogy holds up: if you take away the slight crunch of some of the “rock” numbers on Clarity, you’re liable to end up with Dashboard Confessional and if you amp up the rock elements and add any personality at all, you’d get something like My Chemical Romance. With Clarity, Jimmy Eat World hold a fertile middle ground where the aim is simply a polished emo-pop that more often than not echoes Weezer’s self-titled debut.
Honestly, do you seriously hear that much of a difference in “Goodbye Sky Harbor” and “Only in Dreams”? (Both are lengthy closing numbers in love with the idea of propulsion and implied and explicit harmony.) It may be damning, but much of Clarity’s greatness stems from the fact that it takes everything The Blue Album kept as a secret and puts it out into the open.
Rest assured, Jim Adkins doesn’t have half the personality of Rivers Cuomo (compare Rolling Stone profiles in the early ‘00s for proof), but the lack of specificity in Jimmy Eat World’s lyrics are one of its most endearing traits. Shit, “These days are numbered / I can tell / So until the crash I'll write it down, down”? Who can’t identify with that (especially when you’re fifteen)?
Oops. May have let the cat out of the bag with that last parenthetical, eh? Listen, I’m not going to sit here and claim that Clarity is something that a college graduate is going to listen to for the first time and be able to enjoy without reservation. There’s been a lot of garbage that’s come out in its wake that claims to be influenced by it. (There’s been a lot of garbage that Jimmy Eat World has released since.) But there’s also a lot of stuff that you probably love that unknowingly (or knowingly, for that matter) that rips them off. (Every band that contains more than ten members and is from Scandinavia for a start.) Just because your new girlfriend thinks watching fireworks is irritating and uncomfortable doesn’t mean there isn’t room in the world for your old one who is now a receptionist at a scuba academy. In fact, do you have her number?
Reviewed by: Charles Merwin
Reviewed on: 2007-08-09