The band that single-handedly saved me in the summer of 2001. Please forgive me if this isn't strictly factual.
Jimmy Eat World is a rock and roll band straight out of Phoenix, Arizona. You may have heard the singles The Middle or Sweetness on the radio by now, or perhaps you were referred to them by Blink 182. Or, maybe one of your friends happens to be on their Street Team and hit you over the head with their music so many times that you just want to know what the deal is. Let me put your mind at rest: they really are one of the best things to happen to rock music in the past three years. Unless you like rap-metal, in which case you are free to leave. And to stay.
Once, to introduce them to a friend, I described them as "a cross between the best of Weezer, the Goo Goo Dolls, and SR-71." Of course, a year later, I barely even see the similarities between those three bands, whom I only ever casually liked in the first place, and possibly my favorite band, ever. They've been tagged as ***, pop punk, and probably a handful of other genres, but since there is no emo and genres and labels are nothing if not restrictive, I hesitate to try to describe their music in such broad strokes any further.
They hail from Tempe, Arizona, which is a hundred miles north of my hometown, and I readily admit that that probably has something to do with how well I identify with their music. They're also probably the first band that I didn't hear about on the radio, or MTV, or some other major media outlet. Instead, my friend played me a song from the record they'd just released, which was selling for $8 at Best Buy at the time--and my God, what a song. While I aspire to write songs myself, someday, I don't know that I could ever even approach the bittersweet majesty of My Sundown.
Anyway, we spent the rest of the day, and that night, listening to that one record--and this is two guys who have probably five hundred CDs between us, and yet find it hard to agree on the merits of more than ten or twenty albums. He's Peter Gabriel, I'm the Smashing Pumpkins. He's Yes and ELP, and I'm Nirvana and the Pixies. Yet between My Sundown and A Praise Chorus and especially Sweetness, there was just the right blend of elevated, poetic lyrics, talented instrumentation, and down-to-earth attitude that prog rock and grunge somehow came together to make one beatiful, incomparable forty-six minute piece of music that opened a whole world of this "indie rock" stuff to us.
Being the Web junkie I am, it didn't take me long to devour their whole biography from www.jimmyeatworld.net, and cross-reference their entire catalog with what Audiogalaxy had to offer, and now I am happy to go on record as saying that this band has not missed since 1996 (Speed Read notwithstanding).
In 1994, Jimmy Eat World (at the time: Jim Adkins=guitar+voice, Tom Linton=guitar+voice, Zach Lind=drums , Mitch Porter=bass) finished their first full-length release, an eponymous debut on Wooden Blue Records, of questionable merit--not surprising, considering that they were in their late teens at the time. The album was fourteen tracks of pretty unimpressive generic punk-pop (although even it has its moments).
1995 saw the departure of Mitch Porter and the auspicious arrival of Rick Burch, which marked the only lineup change in the now 8-year history of the band, and the signing of a historic major-label deal, leading to 1996's amazing Static Prevails on Capitol Records, which is presumably when Blink 182 started plugging them every chance they got. It features standout tracks Rockstar, Claire, Call it in the Air, and Episode IV, along with an epic 7:30 version of Digits and the album's gorgeous closer, Anderson Mesa. There was a video for Rockstar, though hardly anyone saw it, and Capitol's promotion for the album was pretty much nonexistant. A tour supporting the Promise Ring later, they found themselves back home, with a record that, despite its brilliant production (by Mark Trombino), was a commercial failure in the eyes of the label. Undaunted, the band put together a thirteen-track demo that would eventually become their masterpiece, 1999's Clarity.
Clarity was preceded in 1998 by a self-titled EP on Fueled by Ramen Records, featuring five songs from the Clarity sessions, including its lone single, Lucky Denver Mint, and For Me This is Heaven, perhaps one of the most beautiful rock songs ever. LA's KROQ got ahold of an advance copy of Lucky Denver Mint and immediately put it in heavy rotation, generating a groundswell of interest for the band in the most influential town in the business, but the album wasn't due to be released for some time, and when it finally hit the stores, their blip on the radar of the almighty scene had evaporated, and soon after the album failed to sell, Capitol and Jimmy Eat World parted ways, not without a sigh of relief from the band.
Undaunted, they struck off on the road. They headed first to Europe, hardly perturbed by the fact that Capitol had never quite got around to sending their records there--instead they bought them with their own money from distributors and in true Fugazi-inspired DIY fashion, sold them out of the back of a van, after shows which they had booked themselves. They would release split EPs and 7" singles for the next year or two, supplementing the amazing turnout at the shows, and finally, feeling they had saved up enough money to finance their next record, returned to the studio, releasing a compilation entitled Singles to tide over their newfound fanbase until it could be released, then shopped around their complete, produced (again by Trombino) and mixed full-length record to labels for the privelege of promoting such a gem.
When Bleed American came out on Dreamworks Records in July 2001, they hit the ground running. They played their CD-release party at Nita's Hideaway in Mesa, recording their performance of Bleed American for later release as a music video. The single sold moderately well, and they toured nearly non-stop for the next year, both headlining smaller venues and in support of stadium-fillers Weezer, Blink 182, and Green Day, and have booked dates through October, once again headlining small clubs with various bands (including their personal idols the Promise Ring).
Also the title of their 1994 LP, featuring:
4. Splat Out of Luck
5. House Arrest
9. Reason 346
Also (now) the title of their 2001 LP, rereleased and retitled from Bleed American after the September 11, 2001 tragedy, now running on its third single and closing in on the platinum mark. The first single, launching the record in July of 2001, was the (then) title track, Bleed American, which had a modest impact on "new rock" radio. The Middle followed by the end of the year, cracking MTV's playlists and pop radio, and earning them the derision of any hardcore emo kids who might have still liked them. In June of 2002, Sweetness was launched, featuring a video by director Tim Hope.
1. Bleed American
2. A Praise Chorus
3. The Middle
4. Your House
6. Hear You Me
7. If You Don't, Don't
8. Get it Faster
10. The Authority Song
11. My Sundown
12. Splash, Turn, Twist
(vinyl edition only)