Artist: Jimmy Eat World
Producer: Mark Trombino
Release Date: June 23, 1999
Vocals/Guitar: Jim Adkins
Guitar: Tom Linton
Bass: Rick Burch
Drums: Zach Lind
In 1999, Jimmy Eat World was suffering from a dismal relationship with their major label, Capitol Records. Only a few people at the label really cared about the band, and this was apparent in the lack of promotion being done for JEW's followup album to 1996's Static Prevails. The label was apprehensive to promote a band that produced music that didn't sound like it belonged on the radio. So Jimmy Eat World continued to tour like maniacs, usually opening for bands on smaller independant labels, doing most of the promotion themselves.
When it was time to go back in the studio to make another album, Capitol paid little attention. The band teamed up with Static Prevails co-produder Mark Trombino and headed back into the studio and recorded the greatest album of all time (in my opinion), Clarity.
The album begins with "Table For Glasses", a track that goes against everything Jimmy Eat World had recorded up to that point. There is no chugging guitar riff and no desperate yelling. The song begins with the hum of an organ accompanied by a sparse drum beat. Jim Adkins opens the album softly singing:
Sweep the dirty stairs,
the ones I waited on.
This is just for me.
I felt it watching her.
It happens too fast
to make sense of it,
make it last.
The song moves at the pace of a funeral march slowly building energy. Trombino's production skills shine through as the track nears the end and Jim Adkins is harmonizing with himself and 4 of his vocal clones.
From here the band dives into "Lucky Denver Mint", the only single from the album. It's a solid pop song, but it took me probably a hundred listens before I really began to appreciate it. The song combines live and electronic drumming, which sounds absolutely great in the intro and fade-out, but the whole middle is marred by over-repetition of the chorus.
The next song is "Your New Aesthetic", which opens with Tom Linton's guitar and Rick Burch's bass chugging in unison with Jim speaking out against mainstream radio. As the song builds up to the chorus, we hear some great harmonizing between Jim and... um... Jim. The bridge has some of the best vocals on the entire album, particularly at 1:10 into the song as Jim's Arizonian accent comes through when he sings "You better sing now while you can!". The chorus begins on the wrong foot, pushing the vocals into an uninteresting background, with a wall of indistinguishable guitars churning through the speakers. Once the vocals are the focus again, the chorus becomes a fight song, and it becomes clear that Jim is a little angry at the state of radio.
Up next is "Believe In What You Want", which sounds like a bastardized version of "Your New Aesthetic". The lyrics are kind of cheesy throughout, and they come across as forced, especially during the chorus. One positive is the staccatto guitar riff which is constant throughout the song. Fortunately, the song is rather short and a much better song comes next.
"On A Sunday" is one of the slower songs on the album, but it definately is not mellow. Like many JEW songs, it opens up with a simple melody and builds up to a rousing conclusion. Jim makes heavy use of alternative instruments on this track, and the song begins with of all things, a xylophone solo (DUUUDE, DID YOU HEAR THAT XYLOPHONE RIFF? YOU DA MAN ZACH, ROCK ON!!!). Soon the band comes in accompanied by a smorgasborg of strings, organs, moogs, and chimes. The lyrics are pretty swell, and while I have no idea what he is talking about, he definately creates a nice mood: "The haze clears from your eyes/ On a Sunday". The song hits its stride in the last minute with some passionate vocals by Jim and with every instrument going all out. And just for all the xylophoners out there, Zach closes with another pleasing solo.
If this album was a five course meal, you would have just finished cleansing your palate with a little sorbet, and are eyeing the T-bone steak (tofurkey for vegetarians) that has been placed in front of you. With the next song, "Crush" you take your first bite of the medium-rare meat, coated with tangy sauces and seasoning, and the main course has begun. "Crush" begins with a loud and vibrant smack of the guitar strings and then dives into a fast-paced and energetic rock song. Tom and Jim's guitars are the focus of the song, but Zach shows he can pound the drums hard as well. I am a failure when it comes to deciphering lyrics, but I am pretty sure Jim is trying to tell us about a fleeting moment of romance, "Faintest snow keep falling,/FALLING, yeah./Hands around your waist/NAMELESS, standing cold". The fast pace continues until the end and the song fades out with a cry of distortion.
The next song is weird shit, beginning with a moog and some electronic beats, though moving at a deliberate pace. "12.23.95" sounds like one of those ambient electronica songs that only sound brilliant when dropping acid. Jim joins in with a lyric, "Didn't mean to leave you hanging on, alone/ Merry Christmas baby." which he repeats enough to fill up the song. More electronic noise which I can't identify appears throughout the song, along with some looped guitars. This song has never been played live, except by Jim's alt-folk side project, Go Big Casino.
"Ten" begins much like "Lucky Denver Mint" with a similar drum beat. However, this song has a much more mellow sound. A clean piano-like guitar is accompanied by a backing piano, and later an acoustic guitar. Jim's multiple voices convincingly repeat "blame no one" in a wonderfully calming tone. This song is is like Valium for the ears. Mmmmmm, nice.
The greatest song on the album is next, though "Just Watch The Fireworks" opens rather wussily with Jim pleading to us, "Here, you can be anything/I think that scares you" over a simple guitar/piano line. The Celine Dion schtick is over quickly though, and then this 7-minute song truly begins to rock. The song is driven by a large string accompanyment and Jim's vocals clearly take the backseat. The second half of the song is a complete masterpiece, and I can only ask you to listen to this song because I can't explain how perfect it sounds.
"For Me This is Heaven" is next and is a beautiful piece of music as well. This is Jim's best song vocally, and the melodies played by the guitars are nothing short of brilliant. The lyrics are also some of my favorite, "I'm careful but not sure how it goes. You can lose yourself in your courage. The mindless comfort grows when I'm alone with my 'great' plans. The harmonies between the guitars, pianos, and vocals as the song nears the end catapulted Mark Trombino to being a premier producer for modern rock music.
"Blister" follows, and it stands out because Tom takes over on vocals. I personally, dislike Tom's voice, it seems too deep and husky. However this is a still a great song and the vocal harmonies are perfect. This song has a very "hard rock" sound and Tom shows off his talent on guitar throughout. Lyrically, "Blister" is nothing special though.
The title track is a mid-tempo rock song, and the focus is on the guitars which sound great together. Jim's vocals are also excellent and he does a lot of great yelling. The lyrics go very well with the churning guitars, and the chorus seems pretty similar to that of "Just Watch the Fireworks". However, by the time this song is over, it doesn't stand out much from the rest of the album.
The final song is the epic "Goodbye Sky Harbor". Clocking in at 16 minutes, it definately runs the risk of boring the listener, however it somehow manages to avoid doing so. The first 3 minutes follow a quiet/loud progression but at the 4 minutes mark, the song enters a calming melody that continues for the next 12 minutes. All the instruments are looped but as the song progresses, you start to notice little variations that start to develop. Some vocals join in at the 6 minute mark to add some doos, das, nanas, and dananas. Soon an organ joins in and adds a Counting Crows vibe. The whole concept of adding a little change after each repetition of the melody borrows from the electronic music scene. At 12 minutes, the music gradually drops away and we are left with a few voices harmonizing with some weird humming noises to the beat of a shaker. An electronic drum kit enters the song and fills the void with some cool tapping and clicking. Soon the rest of the instruments join in, now including some echoey chimes which harness the song and topple it in a beautiful mess of distorted noise.
INTERESTING FACT: Goodbye Sky Harbor refers to Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport, located in Arizona, Jimmy Eat World's home state.
INTERESTING FACT #2: Goodbye Sky Harbor contains many lines from A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving. Jim Adkins is a fan of the book.
On June 23rd 1999, Clarity was finally released. Despite the undoubted excellence of the album, it recieved anemic publicity, and Capitol barely hyped it. Despite a warm reception by critics and major radio play for Lucky Denver Mint on KROQ, 6 months after Clarity was released Jimmy Eat World was dropped by Capitol. Normally, this would be the end of a band, very few can survive being dropped by a major label. But somehow, Jimmy Eat World took the firing in stride, and returned in a way nobody predicted. But THAT is an entirely different story...
sources: my head and allmusic.com