Damage is the latest instalment in Jimmy Eat World’s nineteen-year discography. Having released seven albums since 1994, most with very positive critical reception, you could expect Damage to have the same quality as the others.
It took the band a while to get through the stages of making and releasing this album; with a delay from their planned 2011 start, that lead to the writing only beginning in early 2012. Queens Of The Stone Age collaborator Alain Johannes produced the album, with the tracks being recorded at the Chilean’s home in late 2012 on analogue tape. Like most analogue recordings, this has given the album a more intimate and less refined sound that compliments the laid-back acoustic feel that most of the songs embrace. In a very Bon Jovi style, the majority of the tracks on the album started out as acoustic songs and ideas, which can really be heard in the rhythm of the album and also in the reserved vocal lines performed by vocalist Jim Adkins. It took the band most of this year to find a label with which they could release the album, before releasing the first single, ‘I Will Steal You Back’, in April.
Though the album introduces many engaging and enjoyable hooks that sit well with the album’s theme of grown up love songs, the very laid-back vocals and lethargic rhythm guitar parts in the first few songs create a slow start. Although the drums sit behind the guitars, full of energy, it is very easy for the listener to lose attention early on in the album. There is a lot of potential for these tracks to sound great live with the added energy that would be present at the gigs. Funnily enough, the pace increases with the acoustic-based ‘Book Of Love’ where the drums and bass bounce with an upbeat folk-like feel alongside the main acoustic guitar; a very well placed change of sound and pace.
Jimmy Eat World have always created great melodies and this album has no lack of great vocal lines creating interest amongst the lacklustre guitar parts on the record. ‘I Will Steal You Back’ has a standout chorus with one of those melodies; other standouts include ‘Appreciation’ and the title track ‘Damage’. ‘Please Say No’ may not have such interesting refrains as the others, there is a lot more emotion in Adkins’ voice in this song, contrasting with the laid-back and dreary vocals used in other songs.
After building up with some brilliant songs over the mid-part of the album, it slows down again. ‘Byebyelove’ is very simple, but will sound impressive in any live venue, small or large; easy to sing along to and, though very plain at points, shows off the higher end of Adkins’ range in the second half. ‘You Were Good’ is different from the rest of the album in terms of its sound and production, though the facile harmony and flowing melody remains true to the majority of the album.
Damage is good album that’s worth a listen, there isn’t much at all to dislike about it. Lovely to listen to casually with some great ideas and hooks, and though some parts can be underwhelming, there are a couple of gems that will catch many listeners’ ears.