Jimmy Eat World, ‘Damage’ (RCA)
Release Date: June 18, 2013
What you used Jimmy Eat World for around their peak (Bleed American, 2001) was to psych yourself up, if you were the kind of person who got psyched up with words. Songs like “A Praise Chorus” and “The Middle” were buffets of encouraging platitudes, set on a bed of crunchy, twisting guitars and seasoned with punk outbursts; and they sounded best in the car, before you’d actually reached the girl’s house. Damage, the band’s eighth album — and its shortest and simplest since that halcyon time — wants to do the same for you now: to wrap optimistic truths about adult romance around twinkling, fastidious melodies, and make you feel a little better about all the girls’ houses you’ve reached since.
It has good songs, too: the chiming title track; the restless, circling “Lean”; “No, Never,” which has the best melody (and the best chugging rhythm guitar). It also has real aural space, which makes the soft parts sound fragile and the loud parts sound like they’re really fighting. But there’s plenty here that’s unsticky (“Byebyelove,” a crawling, tacky ballad, is the worst), and you may also find that your lyrical needs have changed.
One of the other reasons Jimmy Eat World were good to have in your corner in 2001 was that they were good listeners, which is the phrase you use to praise someone’s willingness to talk about you. They still want to talk about you, and they’ve got the pronouns to prove it: Most of these songs are about “us,” and the ones that aren’t are thicker with yous than Is. “Us” usually means you and Jimmy Eat World, the couple, but it’s also the universal “us” of a band in the business of appealing to as many people as possible: “We come to find ourselves / Not knowing we’re lost,” “Here we go / We’ll take on so much pain,” etc. These songs are about everyone. So there are no specifics: no place names, no hobbies, no lines of dialogue, no memories of that time you and Jimmy Eat World did whatever together, as if that stuff would render a song unrelatable. Just feelings.
Of course, it’s possible to write great love songs with just feelings: This year’s Tegan and Sara album, for example, is also devoid of physical detail, but it describes emotional states with such canny precision that you feel them happening to you even if they never have — or you discover they’ve been happening to you all along. If you are over 25 and have been in a romantic relationship, Damage will not confront you with the unfamiliar, or make you suddenly realize you’ve never understood yourself like you do now. Still, some of it will comfort you when you’ve been depressed or confused by your life. Which is only fair, seeing as Jimmy Eat World were the ones who got you all psyched up for it to begin with.