Album Review: Jimmy Eat World – Surviving

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Jimmy Eat World has slowly climbed the charts on the favorite bands list thanks to two stellar live shows in recent years that encouraged the opportunity to dig deeper than the band’s radio hits off their break through record Bleed American from 2001 and Jimmy Eat World’s new album Surviving (out Oct. 18) certainly fuels this ascension.

The quartet from Mesa, AZ consisting of singer and guitarist Jim Adkins, drummer Zach Lind, Tom Linton on rhythm guitar, and bassist Rick Burch have worked like clockwork recording albums every three years (Integrity Blues their last from 2016) since cementing a number of radio hits nearly 20 years ago and their pace continues with the release of their 10th studio album. So, just when I thought I was losing that youthful ability to soak in and appreciate new music along comes Surviving, a pretty quick-paced album of 10 songs that shows the band trying new arrangements and tone while keeping their core sound and structure together. They don’t deviate too far from the norm overall, but deliver some heavier rock fare, their usual softer melodies and a couple tracks that take a few spins to appreciate.

Surviving opens with the title track, a great guitar driven song showing the band ripping on the fretboard quite a bit more than past releases. They alternate power pop with power rock and coincidence or not works as a statement that Jimmy Eat World indeed survives in the dog eat dog world of music. But they don’t stop there, “Criminal Energy” follows with even faster paced guitar-centric rock and by now the band has dialed in a new sound that suits them well. Hold off on the prog rock stamp but they have some roots growing.

Their core base need not worry, they don’t stray too far from the melodic pop that works so well with Adkins vocals as “Delivery” slips right in and provides probably another gem for the band on par with “Hear You Me” off Bleed American.

OK, now we get into some very new territory with “555.” Curious as to why they didn’t place this song fifth on the album but anyway, Jimmy Eats ventures into the world of boy bands but hold on. After the initial shock go back and listen again. Who knew Adkins had such a wide and, dare I say, graceful vocal range? I’ll wager right now – this song makes it on the forthcoming tour setlist and eventually grows some legs as a Jimmy favorite. It takes some getting used to because it’s a total departure from the usual Jimmy Eat World vein but the stripped down instrumentation and Adkins taking the lead works quite well for this song.

The band returns to their core sound with the enjoyable “One Mil” and “All the Way (Stay)” which was released earlier as a single off the album featuring classic JEW sound and melodies but the use of the saxophone to close it out doesn’t change my opinion on rock bands using this instrument. Please don’t. It also dates this song by like 30 years.

“Diamond” brings a fun upbeat track with a memorable chorus. “Love Never,” the other single pre-released off the album, infuses the working combination of power pop chords, rock guitar and earnest lyrics that highlights much of the band’s catalogue and made them a household name at the turn of the century. “Recommit” slows the pace quite a bit with a heavy start and just as you want to click “next” Jimmy Eat World hits you with that intense chorus they infuse so perfectly in songs. “Recommit” needs a commitment but the melody eventually works its way through.

Finally, Jimmy Eat World closes Surviving with “Congratulations” the longest song on the album coming in more than 6 minutes and taking the band down another experimental road thanks to more prog rock sounds featuring really cool guitar riffs and instrumentation along with some synthesizer work. The song abruptly goes dark midway (if you’re not listening intently) leaving you thinking it has ended but it slowly picks back up again with a drum cadence and the band kills it with an intense hard rock jam that’s all guitar, cymbals and drums.

Surviving won’t set the world on fire nor garner much radio play for the band, but at the very least their production rate keeps Jimmy Eat World relevant with their passionate fan base and this rather exceptional new album certainly helps them retain a foothold in the music world and likely taps into a new generation of listeners.

Grade: B+

Jimmy Eat World – Surviving Track List:

  1. Surviving
  2. Criminal Energy
  3.  Delivery
  4. 555
  5. One Mil
  6. All the Way (Stay)
  7. Diamond
  8. Love Never
  9. Recommit
  10. Congratulations