Emo before there was such a thing as emo, Jimmy Eat World formed in Mesa, Arizona in 1993. After three albums and a singles collection, they finally reached a wide audience with 2001’s Bleed America CD.
A band famed for songs rather than image, JEW (an unintentional acronym) have mutated from the angular, discordant punk band of their early independent releases to a mainstream, major-label rock act, without alienating the majority of their longtime die-hard fans.
The lighter tone of the Chase This Light CD is thought by many to be a reaction to the previous CD, Futures, which garnered criticism for its longer songs and more introspective subject matter.
Jimmy Eat World — Chase This Light: Track-by-track review
1. “Big Casino”
A short, fast intro riff, the word “stay” spoken quietly, deep in the mix and BOOM; we’re off. This is how you start a rock album: big guitars, big bass and big drums.
The verses sweep past and swell to a huge chorus. Everything about this song is a “how-to” of modern pop punk. The song is uplifting and generates smiles aplenty. Chase This Light’s first song and first single, “Big Casino” is a classic big, shiny rock song that starts the album in stunning form.
2. “Let It Happen”
A lower-key song than the previous one, with acoustic guitars over the intro and an initially more restrained vocal from Jim Adkins. But that doesn’t stop “Let It Happen” from exploding into another large chorus that features slightly odd, repeated laughter.
This is the first song on Chase This Light where you notice the quality of the production: the chiming, clean guitars over the top of a foundational layer of big power chords; the pre-second chorus pause with dirty guitars; the echoing ring of the outro.
3. “Always Be”
“Always Be” is pure pop. From the finger-click intro and the main guitars deep in the mix, to the handclaps and backing vocals that heavily recall the Cars, this is the farthest removed from their punk origins I have ever heard Jimmy Eat World.
Jim Adkins’ vocals are very high in the mix on this one, the lyrics heartfelt without being cloying. Emo bands singing about girls can come off as whiny and petulant. Not so JEW; Adkins’ lyrics have a sad resignation to them.
It’s another smile-inducing song, but this time the smiles are tinged with regret. Anyone having issues with that special someone will take this song to their heart immediately.
4. “Carry You”
An acoustic-based song, “Carry You” almost becomes the first ballad on Chase This Light. But the electrics do pile on top and almost overwhelm the acoustic at times, and the tempo swells over the chorus. It’s a good song, it’s just sandwiched between two so much better songs. It may be the slow-burning grower of the CD. Time will tell.
5. “Electable (Give It Up)”
Another fine BIG pop song, with a full-on rock middle eight. It’s upbeat, uptempo and definitely the most political I’ve heard the band:
Not in my name
You don’t speak for me
I am my voice
And I want to scream
You want my air?
You want my love?
I act as one
But I’m not alone
Some classic chorus “oh, oh” backing vocals and a wall of feedback end the song. This is a real highlight and a song I can’t wait to see them tear through live.
6. “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues”
The album’s mood changes with the strummed, muted guitars and gorgeous, languid strings that really dominate the song “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues.” It’s a sombre piece with Jim Adkins’ vocals in a lower register.
Don’t be fooled by the title — it’s not a blues song, and despite its tempo, it’s not really a ballad. The lyrics bring to mind a number of tragedies from recent years, but it’s not really for anyone other than the band to say what the song is really about. Unfortunately, they have been quite reticent to explain.
This is a seriously mature piece of work, one that stays with you long after the CD has finished.
7. “Feeling Lucky”
A great bass and drums intro starts this fantastic rock song. It’s brief, but so much fun. It actually seems flippant, following the previous song, “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues,” as it does. The lyrics are of an accusatory nature, but a light hearted one:
When I try to sing along the needle skips
I huff and then I puff but the house is brick
You suck that lucky feeling right out of me
This is another song that is going to be real live highlight.
8. “Here It Goes”
More handclaps and more apparent influence from the Cars with this song. The lyrics in the chorus are weird and funny:
Waiting for attention — I’m not
Cut it to the left and I rock
Need an invitation — I don’t
Slide it to the right and I roll
The song seems to be about being completely unself-conscious on the dance floor. You know the old adage: Dance like no one’s watching.
The middle eight is the highlight of the song with its “Hey! Hey! Hey!” refrain.
9. “Chase This Light”
A gently picked, clean electric guitar and a smooth vocal start Chase This Light’s title track. It’s a real swoon of a song that concerns itself with the heart and includes some lyrical allusions to marriage.
It sweeps, always with the promise of exploding, but never following through. It actually feels much shorter than its 3:29 running time, but that may just be because it is such a wonderfully warm and affecting song.
It’s odd, but this song took me a while to get. It seemed throwaway and ordinary — ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, another mid-paced rock song from JEW. The end of the album is coming soon, they’re on autopilot.’
“Firefight” is a deceptively fine song that will grow on you the more you hear it. It’s actually come to be one of my favourites on Chase This Light. It fades in with almost mechanised drums and guitar before warming as the song starts.
It’s mid-tempo with a great shout-along chorus, and yet another song with a really outstanding middle eight. The lyrics contain some really great couplets:
Why open a door if you won’t go?
Don’t ask twice if you don’t want to know
A great big ballad to end the album. It sweeps into view and crashes over you in a huge wave of emotion. The lyrics are both heartrending:
You close your eyes and kiss your hand, then you blow it
But it isn’t meant for me and I notice
Respectfully, some honesty, I’m calling out
This is either a sunset or a sunrise song, depending on your mood. The tempo picks up for the middle eight, with some discordant guitar and terse vocals that are almost too emotionally charged, as “Dizzy” slams into the chorus again.
This has ‘album closer’ written all over it. Which is why it pains me to review the subsequent UK bonus tracks…
12. “Be Sensible” [UK Edition bonus track]
I’ll be honest — I really don’t like bonus tracks. I’ve always respected the artist’s vision of what should and shouldn’t make up an album. They have slaved over the thing and finally decided, yes, that’s the finished article, those tracks in that order. That perfectly represents what we are about at this exact moment.
If the bonus tracks formed part of the vision of the album, they would have been included in the final track list. It just smacks of record company wet dream shenanigans; die-hard fans buying more than one copy to get all the rare tracks. That annoys me.
Jimmy Eat World — stand up for your fans and tell the record company to get bent!
All that said, “Be Sensible” is absolutely stunning, a real slow-burning torch song. The lyrics are warm and motivational:
Don’t get comfortable
Don’t be sensible
Swing with all you have
Stop me if you can
A strummed acoustic guitar rings throughout with some chiming, echoed guitars behind and atop it. The repeated chorus refrain, over stripped-down instrumentation before picking up again for the climax, is absolutely gorgeous.
13. “Distraction” [UK Edition bonus track]
A final big-ass rock song to finish things off. Lyrically, “Distraction” is fun and throwaway (in the best sense) to start with, before changing mood into something more serious.
It does feature a really cool guitar break though, which really makes it stand out. The song is brief and feels a little like an anticlimax after the previous two songs. JEW have always had a knack of finishing CD’s in a remarkable and memorable fashion. The inclusion of the two bonus songs on Chase This Light, “Be Sensible” and “Distraction,” have slightly robbed them of that reputation.
Chase This Light by Jimmy Eat World
“Let It Happen”
“Electable (Give It Up)”
“Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues”
“Here It Goes”
“Chase This Light”
“Be Sensible” [UK Edition bonus track]
“Distraction” [UK Edition bonus track]