Sound — 8
In a world where it's hard not to be leery of bands that seem to write radio hit after radio hit, Jimmy Eat World is a guilty pleasure. You can't really consider the band part of the rock genre, and at times it's music even touches upon a more distinct pop sound. Perhaps the most crucial thing on the band's side is that it's songs instantly get stuck in your head -- and this case, it's not such a bad thing. It has more to do with pleasing melodies than just annoyance, and underneath it all, the quartet has some surprisingly unique approaches to songwriting. Jimmy Eat World's latest album Chase This Light is one of the best examples of their refreshing musical approach. What will immediately draw attention to the latest album is the name behind it: Butch Vig. The producer responsible for Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream and Nirvana's Nevermind (not to mention his role as drummer in Garbage) is at the helm of Chase This Light, but you wouldn't necessarily guess that right off the bat. There are some more innovative tunes that feel like Vig might have had his hand in things a little bit more, but in general Jimmy Eat World has continued with the solid sound they have had for years. With vocalist Jim Adkins leading the way, the band once again delivers layered melodies and harmonies that intertwine to carry song after song. The first single Big Casino doesn't immediately jump out at first, primarily because the verses are a little bit low-key. But the band balances out the anti-climactic verses by delivering a big chorus that immediately multiples the energy. While the verses might not jump out musically, there is a charming storytelling aspect about that section thanks to Adkins' attention-grabbing vocal delivery. Jimmy Eat World does like to build up to a punchy chorus, and it does work for them pretty well in Big Casino and another track called Firefight. There are times when you wish there was a little bit more involved within the verses, whether it be a nice hook or just a little bit more energy in general, but at least there is a payoff at the end. The best track on the album is also the biggest musical leap for the band. Gotta Be Somebody's Blues thrives on an eerie, moody vibe the entire song, and it's nothing like the fun, poppy numbers that Jimmy Eat World has put out in the past. You hear just a simple, steady guitar strum at first, but then you get the addition of a very elaborate string section. Between the heavily pronounced bass line and the cello almost sounding like lap steel, Gotta Be Somebody's Blues is the one track that makes you immediately want to listen from beginning to end. The track is pretty atypical for the band and it shows exactly what Jimmy Eat World is capable of writing.
Lyrics — 8
The songs on Chase This Light bounce between your typical pop lyrics and more in-depth reflection. Making an even greater impression than the deep lyrics are the unexpected lines that show Jimmy Eat World isn't afraid to take a few lyrical chances -- even if it might look cheesy on paper. Listeners get plenty of oohs, ahs, and even has on the album, which are best showcased in the tracks Let It Happen and Electable (Give It Up). Let It Happen is the standout of the two with lines like Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, I can laugh it off in Let It Happen, and it surprisingly doesn't get annoying, either. Adkins softens his vocals during that section and makes it work well.
Overall Impression — 8
Jimmy Eat World's 6th studio album does not stray too far from its usual sound, but the band has proven in the past it has a knack for melodies. The guitars, although subtle, hearken back to an early '80s rock sound (bands like The Outfield, at least), and it's the similar use of effects that really drive that comparison. Guitarist Tom Linton even tries out some similar techniques to U2's The Edge at times, adding more texture to the song rather than coming straight out and playing a riff. The new album doesn't necessarily come across as a Butch Vig album, but the sound quality is amazing and the harmonies are flawless. It would be great to see the band take another stab at a track like Gotta Be Somebody's Blues, which just surpasses everything they've done. Jimmy Eat World shouldn't be afraid of taking a few risks on its next album, especially considering they approach near perfection when they do take a chance.