Jimmy Eat World’s new album Damage sounds like a Jimmy Eat World record.
That is to say, it’s comprised of earnest, heart-on-sleeve alternative/emo rock with Jim Adkins’ requisite impassioned vocals and lyrics displaying the feelings associated with heartache, reflection and, at times, twinges of sadness.
This time around, multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes was on the knobs to produce the album, resulting in crunchy guitars and background flourishes – but his presence didn’t really do much to alter the band’s sound. Damage flies the flag of 2010’s Invented, with the band again adopting a more toned-down, melancholy approach.
Album opener Appreciation features the poignant chorus of We build, we box, we carry on/As people we forgot/Strange we come to find ourselves/not knowing we’re lost, lines that set the tone for most of Damage’s overall mood.
I hate the way I feel/but I don’t think I can change/I just breathe through each day, Adkins laments on the title track, continuing the moodiness – but musically, it’s more upbeat than the lyrics might otherwise dictate.
That dynamic of upbeat music set to lyrical heartbreak continues throughout the album, on songs such as Lean (pairing the peppy vibes of 2001’s Bleed American with lines like If I don’t lean on you, I fall), Book of Love (sample lyric: The book of love is fiction/Written by the loneliest to sing), and the radio-hit-in-the-making How’d You Have Me (None of you will change your voice/You change your face/Scared to say what’s wrong/But we kept going on yeah/Kept going on like/Two adult children engaged in separate play).
Two of the strongest songs here are No, Never and Byebyelove – the former boasting one of the best melodies on the album and the latter channeling Clarity (and, to an extent, Futures) with its slow-building, soft-loud progression and Adkins’ deliberate vocals.
Damage comes to a close with the resolute You Were Good, which caps off the record with the line It was good/Then it was gone – a resolute coda to an album built on the emotions surrounding the trials and tribulations of failed love.
This is one of Jimmy Eat World’s most thematic albums, all told, and as such its songs weave a patchwork of wistfulness, melancholy (there’s that word again) and sadness, delivered by a veteran act that’s gone down this path many times in the past.
Damage isn’t likely to create many new Jimmy Eat World fans, as it’s an album of the band doing what they’ve done well for more than a decade.
That said, it’s a mature, accomplished musical depiction of the uncertainty and difficulties associated with maintaining a consistently upbeat outlook on ‘adult life’ – something too many of us realize as we move farther away from our adventurous teenage years and wrestle with our own self-worth.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.