Old School Reviews: Jimmy Eat World – Static Prevails

31 07 2007

by mr. travis

jimmy eat world - static prevails

Artist: Jimmy Eat World
Album: Static Prevails
Label: Capitol Records
Release Date: 1996
Reissue Release Date: July 31, 2007

There is a story about Jimmy Eat World, detailed in one of the major music magazines from a few years ago, where, after signing their major label contract with Capitol Records in 1996, singer Jim Adkins walked to the top of the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles to smoke a joint, both in celebration of the band’s success at the signing, but also because he had heard the Beastie Boys performed a similar activity after leaving Def Jam to sign with Capitol. It’s a nice story, a small band with very little indie experience making it big, but the truth of it is that it shows the naïve outlook of the band. To think that they would have anything in common with the Beastie Boys besides a penchant of marijuana would be a dream at best, for Capitol would go to treat the band as nothing more than a tax write off, unceremoniously dropping them after their second major label record Clarity in 1999.

Part of the problem is apparent on their first album for Capitol (and second overall), Static Prevails. At the time, there were still some lingering grunge bands in the mainstream, but the mid 90’s were an odd time for the industry, the rap-metal monstrosity had yet to rear its head, and most of the bands arriving were such luminaries as Better Than Ezra, Marcy’s Playground, and Collective Soul. Therefore, in many ways, it’s a blessing that Capitol chose not to push Jimmy Eat World, for it’s very likely that they would’ve ended up as these aforementioned bands.

Luckily for Capitol, to promote Static Prevails in that sort of climate would have been impossible, for the record plays as if it’s an indie band (which, for all intents and purposes they were), with emocore leanings, meaning there’s very little in the way of conventional verse-chorus-verse song structure and certainly nothing on the record would have been close to a radio hit (though they would make it there in 2001 with “The Middle”). In a way, a lot of the record sounds as if Jimmy Eat World is aping such bands as Sunny Day Real Estate and Texas is the Reason, spinning their wheels while doing nothing to add to the genre.

At the time, emo was on its second wave, with bands such as the aforementioned Sunny Day Real Estate mixing the hardcore leanings of the first wave (bands such as Rites of Spring) with a more mainstream rock approach, yet still eschewing the song structure that would be found on the radio. It was a far cry from the current wave of emo, instead of whiny vocals, one could find introspective lyrics on a wide range of topics both insular and cerebral, but (at least with the best of the group), never filled with the self-loathing cheese that infiltrates the radios today. But, almost all of these bands were on indie labels and, while not confined to one specific scene, seemed to do fine throughout the vast network of small clubs throughout the country. Jimmy Eat World wanted it both ways, their contract stated that they could still release singles and e.p.’s via an indie label, while they’re main releases could go through Capitol. From that angle, it’s no wonder the label wanted little to do them, it was their way of dabbling within the indie market without having to sell a product.

Even if Capitol had decided to try and sell this record, it would’ve been hard. There is nothing in the way of hooks, listeners who found Jimmy Eat World after the release of Bleed American would probably find little to like. That’s not say this is a bad record, just one that shows a young band suddenly flush with a major label recording contract who does not quite have the skills to make good on such an endeavor. The opener “Thinking, That’s All” is a fine piece of hardcore, with Jim Adkins screaming in the background to singer Tom Linton’s blunt force vocals. Linton had been the previous singer before the duties eventually went to Adkins full time and it’s a good choice, for Linton has little range outside of making the listener fall asleep.

The rest of the record is a fine, if ultimately forgettable experience. “Claire” is a highlight if a somewhat cliché piece of lost love. The Star Wars homage “Episode IV” is decent, but again, it’s forgettable. For a debut recording, the band missed the mark, making it even more obvious why their label would resist any sort of marketing effort, which is a shame considering that their follow up Clarity is a genre classic, sounding completely different than this effort. It would be too late by then, the damage already done by this album. Jimmy Eat World would go on to make better records and have fairly large hits, but it has nothing to do with their debut, which is by far the worst album in their career.

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