Old School Reviews: Jimmy Eat World – Clarity

1 08 2007

by mr. travis

jimmy eat world - clarity

Artist: Jimmy Eat World
Album: Clarity
Label: Capitol
Release Date: Feb. 23, 1999
Rerelease Date: July 31, 2007

You have to hand it to Jimmy Eat World for realizing that regurgitating the sounds of other bands as they had done on Static Prevails was not the way to go. Instead of returning to the played out emocore of their major label debut, they went for the insular, crafting an album that works on multiple levels by stretching the extent of what emo and by extention indie rock could do. The result is Clarity, one of the best albums of the genre as well as one of the best albums of the 90’s.

The album had been completed since early 1998, but Capitol Records, seeing little commercial potential from the record, put it on the shelf, allowing the band to release their self-titled e.p., which served as a basic single for “Lucky Denver Mint,” one of the highlights of the Clarity album. Soon, radio stations were picking up the independent release and to Capitol’s surprise, “Lucky Denver Mint” looked as if it were a minor radio hit. Thus, Capitol released the album, with little fanfare except for the aforementioned e.p. in the barren wasteland of February, a time not known for producing large hits by relative unknown artists.

But, a strange thing happened. Clarity, through word of mouth (and the band’s own eventual success) proved to be not only a success, but highly influential, with its combination of emo theatrics with electronica and a dense production courtesy of Mark Trombino. The difference between this and its predecessor is apparent with the first song “Table For Glasses,” which starts out slow but then bursts into a colorful wall of sound, not in an aggressive way as the first album had been, but in a gentle, symphonic melody setting the tone for the album to follow. There are layers to each song, something unheard of at that time for a band like this, with the band just the top of a dense mix of strings and electronic beats that sound timeless, not dated as most of artists’ forays into electronica sound today.

Elsewhere, the band rails against the limits of radio airplay in “Your New Aesthetic,” a brooding number similar in lyrical content to Elvis Costello’s famous “Radio, Radio” (though, far less subtle). The rush of “Crush” is similar to a lot of Static Prevails, but it’s more focused, as the band’s confidence allows them to play to their own strengths, instead of playing to their peers. But, the best part of the album comes in “Just Watch the Fireworks,” a seven minute “opus” serving as the centerpiece of the album, pulling it all together in a combination of both gentle wordplay and the occasional aggressive rift.

To look back now, after the glut of emo bands that have followed in the wake of Jimmy Eat World (and other bands such as the Get Up Kids), it becomes easy to dismiss this album, not for the greatness that it is, but for it being a harbinger of the rut the genre would quickly fall into. But, few albums can touch this, and as it stands, this is the best album Jimmy Eat World has put out, and is up there with only a few others within the genre.

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2 responses

1 08 2007
patrick

well said. amazing album.

23 10 2007
JIMMY EAT WORLD - Chase This Light (Interscope/Tiny Evil, 2007) « the big part

[…] whole songs on this record. big casino and gotta be somebody’s blues. OneLastCigarette: since clarity each album has been a little more boring than the last JCP001: i mean, the cover art looks like a […]

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