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Jimmy Eat World, ‘Stay On My Side Tonight’ (Interscope)

When Jimmy Eat World released Bleed American, that sure was an exciting time for emo. Granted, an exciting time for emo isn’t really all that enticing at this point; the modifier has been beaten into the ground by repeated critical usage and subsequent artistic avoidance. Remember when no band would be caught dead with the dreaded “emo” tag? Quaint! But really, Bleed American was an outstanding pop/rock album by any measure, and it deserved every accolade it accrued. Jimmy Eat World was always a better band than emo band, pushing at the boundaries of a constrictive genre with extended song structures, hyperactive melodies and some legitimately moving vocal performances from lead singer/songwriter Jim Adkins.

On the heels of last year’s Futures, which cleaned up what little scruff was left in Adkins and co.’s already seamless sound (rendering them a little over-serious and boring, frankly), the band’s new EP, Stay On My Side Tonight, manages to recapture some of the sweaty, hook-happy urgency of their Clarity and Bleed American highlights. Nigh-eight-minute opener “Disintegration” takes a while to get off the ground, but once it does (around the five-minute mark), the syncopated melody and Adkins’ attitudinal delivery gives the seemingly endless intro a “worth-the-wait” kind of tension. The rest of the five-songer is mercifully concise, its hooks clear and often inducing the kind of spine-shivers not seen since “Lucky Denver Mint”: “Over” showcases Adkins’ assets, the chorus bursting forth with full-voiced harmonies ablaze, and the other new tunes (“Closer” and “Half Right”) are fine and catchy, though indistinct. Cuddly remix-master Styrofoam contributes a glitchy new version of the Futures‘ “Drugs or Me,” which cuts/pastes the original into bittersweet oblivion — it’s a fine, clever remix, and fills its role just fine.

Stay On My Side Tonight signals Jimmy Eat World’s continued transition into an uneasy maturity, whereas Bleed American got by on both the intensity of the band’s delivery and sharp songwriting, the band now seems to lean a little too heavily on the songs, which suddenly seem less sharp in the context of the serviceable, but ultimately muted performances. Oh well, emo keeps rolling along.