I’m writing this sentence on the eve of the release of the seventh album of Jimmy Eat World’s long career, and after about two dozen spins of the new LP and at least as many alcoholic beverages to try and grease my creative wheels, I’m having trouble coming up with anything particularly new or exciting to say about the band or their sound. They’ve no doubt carved their notch in recent music history, they’ve influenced countless other bands and there are certainly thousands of fans worldwide who can attest to emotional power of their songs, but listening to the dozen new cuts that make up Invented one gets the sense that they may be nearing the end of their course of relevancy. I’m not saying that the group or the album are necessarily disposable, but the majority of the tracks about heartbreak and failed relationships sound a little stale coming from a band on the verge of their late-thirties who have tread this course time and time again.
Now don’t get me wrong, Invented is an absolutely solid batch of tunes from a band who have defined their genre for more than fifteen years, and their recent appearance on Late Night with David Letterman depicted a group of seasoned veterans who are more than capable of still captivating a national audience. But by calling longtime producer Mark Trombino back to the helm after a brief flirtation with Butch Vig on 2007’s Chase This Light, Jimmy Eat World may have also retreated in the songwriting realm as well, utilizing a formula they have never truly broken too far away from in the first place. Opening with arguably the album’s most unique track, “Heart Is Hard To Find,” an almost-folky sing along that is much more dismal in subject matter that it is in melody, the band soon retreat to a sonic landscape they’ve already conquered on albums past.
The band are experts by now at building each song to dramatic climax, layering luscious strings and electronic drumbeats alongside the sparkling backing vocals courtesy of guest Courtney Marie Andrews, a young singer hailing from the group’s home state of Arizona. Though JEW have been known to feature female harmonies with moderate frequency on past albums, including a guest spot from Liz Phair on 2004’s Futures, they’ve truly rolled out the red carpet for Andrews, featuring her on five of Invented’s twelve tracks and inviting her to join the band on stage for the entirety of their upcoming national tour.
There are certainly some extremely catchy hooks on the album, and a few tracks could stand out commercially among the best the band have ever written. Although “My Best Theory” and “Coffee and Cigarettes” are the clear singles on Invented, two glistening slivers of pop rock majesty in neatly wrapped three-and-a-half minute packages, it‘s “Action Needs An Audience” which surely packs the most energetic punch. However, there is no denying the repetition of mid-tempo tracks such as “Evidence” or “Movielike” which sound timeless enough to have come from nearly any era of the group’s career, but not quite stand-out enough to demand the attention of anyone who isn’t already a fan. They mix up the album occasionally , alternating somewhat sparse tracks with searing guitar heavy pop-rockers, but they all originate from the same bag of tricks they’ve been visiting for a number of albums already. One standard technique the Jimmy’s love to bust out is the looping, extended-outro finale designed to bring the LP to one great gleaming finish , and the culmination of “Mixtapes” does not disappoint, an atmospheric dreamer in the vein of previous album closers like “Night Drive” and “My Sundown.”
Check out the single “My Best Theory” below:
I’m in no way insinuating that Jimmy Eat World should be punished for adhering to the signature sound that has defined their career, but I am disappointed that there is little chance they’ll stab at any particularly new territory seventeen years into the band‘s existence, and when they release their next installment of shimmering sad-sap melodies it will only become harder and harder to truly get excited about a band that were once capable of uniting an army of lonesome youth to celebrate the silver linings of adolescent heartbreak and lost love, but now can’t seem to find their way out of middle age depression.