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Jimmy Eat World Maintains their Laid-back Pop-punk Sound on ‘Invented’

Chris Collum | Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hailing from Mesa, Ariz., the pop-punk veterans of Jimmy Eat World have a legacy of creating albums that combine driving rhythms and massive hooks with introspective, poignant lyrics. Most famous for the 2001 breakthrough single “The Middle” and its accompanying video, the band’s newest full-length, “Invented,” can be accurately viewed as a combination of its previous studio efforts.

This makes sense given the fact it is also the band’s first record produced by Mark Trombino since “Bleed American,” the album that spawned “The Middle.” Trombino also produced Jimmy Eat World’s two albums previous to “Bleed” and cut some tracks with the band for “Futures,” the 2004 follow-up to “Bleed American.”

Opening with strummed acoustic guitar and looped handclaps, “Heart Is Hard to Find” introduces the listener to both the sonic and lyrical themes of the album as lead singer Jim Adkins croons, “I can’t compete with the clear eyes of strangers / I’m more and more replaced / By my friends each night.” A string part toward the end of the song helps to build intensity, but the tone of the song remains somewhat restrained throughout.

Second track and first single “My Best Theory,” however, erupts immediately and soars on a crunching riff that is repeated throughout the song.  The song calls to mind recent Fall Out Boy singles, but with less pop and more bite. 

After the stark musical contrast of the first two songs, “Evidence” falls somewhere in the middle, with more subdued, pensive verses and a big, loud chorus. This dichotomy seems to be a consistent theme in Jimmy Eat World’s work that stretches across most of their albums. The band tends to favor more laid-back, even atmospheric instrumentation just as much as they favor loud, distorted power chords in traditional pop-punk form.

Another track that splits time between both sides of this dichotomy is the seven-minute-long title track that begins with Adkins’ voice, an acoustic guitar and the consistent thump of a bass drum before exploding into a full-band rock song about five minutes in. The song then returns to the more subdued acoustic instrumentation before giving way to album closer “Mixtape.”

“Mixtape” opens with thunderous percussion from Zach Lind before dropping down to simply Adkins’ voice and what sounds like a drawbar organ. About six-and-a-half-minutes long, the song — and album — ends with Adkins repeating, “You don’t get to walk away, walk away now.”

“Invented” features female vocals (provided by Courtney Marie Andrews and Rachel Haden) on many tracks, something that is especially interesting because several songs seem to possibly be written from a female’s point of view, namely “Cut,” and “Stop.” Additionally, the album art and liner notes all feature pictures of a woman in everyday situations.

Lyrically, “Invented” might be the best sum of the album’s themes concerning romance, the lack thereof, and life in general. “There’s a cinematic end / I picture it just right / Having trouble with the right words / But you tell me with your eyes / There’s something good I miss / Something I cant’ find…” Adkins sings.

Specifically, this echoes the song “Movielike,” quite possibly the album’s strongest track, and certainly one of the best lyrically. The songs sounds “made for radio” in that it has a catchy hook and a huge chorus, but that doesn’t mean it lacks depth.

Utilizing short phrases in the songs’ verses, Adkins gives a very visual narrative of a subsistence in which there is “nothing movie-like, nothing magic.” This type of narrative is typical of Adkins, who writes neither in concrete details nor in abstractions, but rather somewhere in between.

All in all, “Invented” is an extremely strong album by a seasoned band. Of the twelve tracks, there are only two that don’t entirely click. “Higher Devotion,” an almost “Michael Jackson-esque” dance-pop number is a definite dud. Also, “Action Needs an Audience,” while interesting because it features lead vocals from guitarist Tom Linton, who hasn’t sung on a Jimmy Eat World album in twelve years, simply feels incomplete.

If you have ever enjoyed anything by Jimmy Eat World, you will almost certainly enjoy this album. As a side note, for anyone not cramming for midterms who’s looking for good music on a Thursday night, Jimmy Eat World is playing the Riviera Theater in Chicago tonight.