It was their driving, power-pop side that finally shot Arizona quartet Jimmy Eat World through to mainstream success—the sugary, chugging “The Middle” from 2001’s self-titled LP, specifically. And there’s plenty of that piledriven-chord, bouncy-vocal-hook stuff on the band’s new Chase This Light, opening single “Big Casino” setting the toothy-distortion pace under singer Jim Adkins’ clean-and-bright chorus calls of “Get up! Get up!”
Getting up is something the band does exceptionally—Adkins, weaned on punk’s attack and alt-rock’s melodic exploration, elevates the straight and driving Les Paul barre-chord brawn with a vocal approach that’s slick and controlled, but infused with expressive emotionalism. That blend is a big part of why “The Middle” came off more authentic than your average radio-rock staple, but just as sticky; it’s why honeyed power-pop Chase This Light tracks like “Always Be” and “Electable (Give It Up),” for their healthy bits of corny-pop constructs, won’t totally sour the palates of Jimmy Eat World’s more indie-minded fans.
But while Jimmy Eat World’s proven themselves consistently capable of elevating easily digestible pop, there’s another, wholly remarkable part of their personality that they’ve been shying away from increasingly: coming down. The aching expanses of 1999’s Clarity showed the four-piece’s ability to settle into darker moods and saturate them with lush melodic grace, and to experiment with pop’s boundaries.
That sensibility does pop up on Chase This Light, “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues” wrapping a keening string section around throbbing acoustic strums, Adkins relying on the gentle, breathy registers of his voice. It’s a gorgeous track, and it punctuates how strong their grasp on those sonic moods remains (as does the title track’s chiming arpeggios and “Dizzy”’s minor-key lovelorn laments). That the mood sticks out as a minority reminds us of how much less Jimmy Eat World’s seemed driven toward that side of their personality since Clarity. And that’s a disappointment, if Clarity’s moody breadth was the Jimmy Eat World you latched tightest to.
But even if Chase This Light follows the radio-pop path “The Middle” opened up more explicitly, it also nods to the fact that Jimmy Eat World haven’t set themselves in a tread yet. And rendering power-pop as well as they have from Jimmy Eat World up through this disc, it’d be hard to complain if they did.