This year marks Jimmy Eat World‘s 20th anniversary, and Jim Adkins & Co. still haven’t lost their fire. They’ve come a long way from the likes of Static Prevails and Bleed American, and rightfully so, maturing like fine wine. Damage is a statement of JEW’s tenacious grasp on the rock scene and fervent passion for their songs that are just as energetic and honest as they’ve ever been.
From the first few seconds of listening to the first track, “Appreciation,” it’s clear the band are still alive and kicking with a youthful sound. Adkins still has a sincerity to his lyrics that comes across in his voice. He seems to have inherited some Benjamin Gibbard-esque relationship perspective, still writing about breakups, but through a wiser lens than the dime-a-dozen pop-punk acts circulating the scene. The comparison is notable especially in “I Will Steal You Back,” where the title and vocals both reflect Death Cab a little. But don’t take this the wrong way––JEW is undoubtedly their own band and have managed to keep their verve while incorporating a decidedly more experienced sound. This is evident in “Damage,” a contemplative journey that is like a train rolling through a movie soundtrack. It would be perfect for the closing moments of an episode of How I Met Your Mother.
The band’s older sound doesn’t mean at all that they’ve doomed themselves to late night talk shows and fixed labels. Rather, JEW have entered another phase of their career that is as strong as ever. “Lean” displays the band’s growth, a head-bopping number that will please the indie crowd. This album is especially good with defying genres. While a good amount of the songs feature Adkins’s signature crooning and the band’s solid grooves, “Byebyelove” is a depressingly sunny song that must have had some Beatles or Beach Boys influence, proving the band’s ability to perform on an operatic scale of pop. And for those who miss early-century JEW, “How’d You Have Me” is perhaps the most distinct throwback to the band’s earlier sound, featuring curlicue guitar lines and hyperactive drumming.
In today’s music scene, it’s relieving to see a band with tenure like JEW still going strong. Damage isn’t a miracle––a couple of tracks weigh it down––but it’s an album without doubt from a band that have refined songwriting over a period of two decades, learning from and adapting to the changes of the industry. It’s a masterful work by a great band and is certainly worth a digital download, or––gasp––a trip to the record store.