ARTIST: Jimmy Eat World
TITLE: Chase This Light
WEB DEBUT: Oct. 1, 2007
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 16, 2007
ONE-LISTEN VERDICT: Even as Idolator’s acknowledged pop-emo apologist, I’m keenly aware of the limitations of my current pet pop-rock subgenre, one whose great contribution to rock’n'roll was adding some minor-key boo-hoo and warbly falsetto/warbly screech and Celine-ian fist-to-chest breakdowns to goofy skate-punk. Especially given how badly the genre has worn its recent growing pains.
The grown-up airs (string arrangements, acoustic guitars, a general atmosphere of Dashboard-esque elder statesmen-ism) of Jimmy Eat World’s Chase This Light are probably earned after 14 years, but that doesn’t make the record anything more than primed to become (at best) interstitial music for spoiled heiresses on MTV or to languish in the back end of a VH1 video countdown between Train and the Fray. When the band stretches its chops past the comfortable, bouncy power-pop of “The Middle” on mid-tempo cuts like the Coldplay-humping “Carry You” and the title track, you get leaden adult-alternative with none of the speedy, ersatz punker oomph that at least keeps mall emo on the side of decent bubblegum rather than sliding (as it so easily does) into the kind of strummy, emotive dreck (with the kind of poker-faced choruses that toast “Here’s to life!”) that pads out a tender makeout scene between two overgrown children on Scrubs.
On the other hand, the emo-ified cuts, while a buzzing, juvenile reprieve from the sensitive, quarter-life crisis ballads, are indistinguishable from, well, “The Middle.” And usually not as catchy. Plus even if it was what these bookish, heartsick dudes were aiming for, they couldn’t write a (circa-2005) Gerard Way-caliber pop-thrash tune if they were threatened with being forced to listen to Welcome to the Black Parade for 24 hours straight, and when it comes to emo’s softer side, Jimmy Eat World has simply gotten lapped by younger, pop-savvier bands over the last few years. The electronically processed guitar and limply “danceable” beat of “Here It Goes” is neither as gauchely vocoded as Hellogoodbye’s emo-dance atrocities, nor as honestly hook-y as your average Fall Out Boy single. And “Electable (Give It Up)” proves why even grownups should keep politics at arm’s length if they’re usually concerned with romantic traumas no deeper than a nasty Facebook comment.
THE BEST TRACK: “Feeling Lucky” is fast, quick (only 2:35), and decent meat-and-potatoes power-pop/pop-punk of the sort that my tasteless, emo-omnivorous self should have grown out of a decade ago.