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Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Oct 24, 2016.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    “The open road is still miles away. Ain’t nothing serious. We still have our fun. Oh, we had it once.” These words, from the second verse of Jimmy Eat World’s perpetually underrated song, “The World You Love,” sum up so much of why I have fallen head-over-heels in love with this band over the past five years of my life. Jimmy Eat World’s music is best represented by the open road late night drives that “The World You Love” calls to mind. The freedom to explore the best of what the world has to offer.

    My life is currently in a state of transition. One change, in particular, looms larger than the others. One of my closest friends, and one of the catalysts for thrusting me headfirst into Jimmy Eat World super fandom, is moving 600 miles away at the end of the month. Someday, maybe soon, I will end up relocating as well. So that line, so symbolic of the open road optimism for the future, is also simultaneously so wistful about the places we’re leaving behind, and the fun we’re putting in the rear-view mirror.

    It’s this tightrope act between pensive, longing reflection on the past and relentless optimism for the future that I pondered as I drove north on I-287 through the rain, with no clear destination in mind, and the dashboard clock winding towards midnight. And sound-tracking that late-night drive was Integrity Blues, the breathtaking ninth studio album from Jimmy Eat World.

    It’s a first listen I will never forget to an album which is even more remarkable than the band’s incredible track record would have predicted. As the angelic opening harmonies of lead track “You With Me” kicked in, and the rumbling, propulsive drum beat enveloped me, it was hard not to feel like this was an album specifically made for that precise moment in space and time.

    While that first listen imbued the record with immediate emotional resonance, it was subsequent listens where the depth and scope of the songwriting achievement of Integrity Blues struck me. As vocalist Jim Adkins stated in his post introducing the album, thematically Integrity Blues is a record about self-improvement and progression. It is about “accept(ing) life on the terms of life, and becoming willing to accept the best any of us have is to be in a state of progress.” Lead single “Sure and Certain” epitomizes this struggle to work towards self-improvement: “The clever ways I try to change, happen and pass, leaving me the same.”

    The back-to-back mid-tempo numbers “It Matters” and “Pretty Grids” provide much of the album’s backbone of longing and heartache. The former is a song about the unspoken hurt of a fleeting, failing relationship. While the protagonist imagines, “talks that last all night,” about the state of their relationship, instead he is met with hesitance, and most crushingly, silent body language which says more than a conversation ever could: “Nothing new to see, saying what you mean, when you pull away.” These feelings of hurt and loss seem to be exponentially increased if one pins their moral failures on others.

    The most daring of the songs on the album, though, is the awe-inspiring “Pass The Baby.” Lyrically, the song is a lot to unpack and I imagine there will be a great deal of conversation about lyrical interpretations on the title phrase. I have come to view it as something of a commentary on the music industry and its obsession with fetishizing young, typically female, bodies, but that is simply one interpretation of a phrase which is left deliberately vague. More importantly, though, musically “Pass The Baby” is a foundational splitting between two vastly different halves of the record.

    The first half of the song represents the first half of the record, a brooding, foreboding warning siren. The second half explodes in a fireball of energy, as if all that pent up frustration and tension has finally been released. I am hesitant to spoil it too much because when the switchover happens it is awe-inspiring, but I will say that if you saw the band’s teaser video on their website you will be in for a treat when “Pass The Baby” comes alive.

    And what is left in its wake is a tour de force of the best Jimmy Eat World has to offer. Adkins gives what I would consider his greatest vocal performance of his career on the back half of Integrity Blues, vacillating between raucous hard-charging alt-rock numbers “Through” and “Get Right” and delicate, vulnerable performances like “The End is Beautiful” and the title track, “Integrity Blues.” The latter song will perhaps garner the most mixed reaction, since it is much more vibey and relaxed than the songs that surround it, but I believe it’s the lyrical lynchpin for the record.

    The repeated refrain “It’s all what you do when no one is there, it’s all what you do when no one cares,” represents the ethos behind the back half of the record. While the front half was warning of the dangers of failing to consider yourself a work-in-progress, the back half is about moving forward once you have finally taken that leap towards self-improvement.

    While “Integrity Blues” maybe be the most lyrically resonant, “You Are Free” is one of the greatest songs Jimmy Eat World has ever written. It’s a song that could have appeared on any of their records since Bleed American, yet it is expertly crafted to the point where it feels like the kind of song they’ve been working towards writing for fifteen years. The chorus has been stuck in my head for a month straight, with no end in sight.

    Producer Justin Meldal-Johnson continues to add to his impressive resume, a catalog that includes such impeccably produced records as Paramore’s self-titled album, Tegan and Sara’s Heartthrob, and M83’s Hurry Up, I’m Dreaming. Jimmy Eat World has done exceptionally glossy record production in the past, as both Chase This Light and Invented have a great deal of studio sheen, but not since Futures have they married this polished production with a cinematic feel and sort of atmospheric wide-scope depth that Meldal-Johnson’s production work lends to Integrity Blues.

    No discussion of the album would be complete without discussing “Pol Roger,” though. Jimmy Eat World has a history of delivering rousing, anthemic closers, with “23,” “Dizzy,” and “Goodbye Sky Harbor” all considered fan favorites. Adkins’s imagery on “Pol Roger” is second to none, however, and this second verse of the song is a stunning snapshot of domestic bliss: “I’d say get on and close the bedpost curtain. Pretend the ground is fire. I know that’d make you smile.” “Pol Roger” is Jimmy Eat World’s version of the instantly iconic “Bittersweet Symphony.” Musically, it bears a slight passing resemblance to The Verve’s classic, but it’s the marrying of uplifting musical passages with somber, introspective moments, which can create lyrical moments like Adkins asking, “Are you alone like me? Alone, but not lonely.” This apparent paradox strikes at the heart of the battling forces within the best Jimmy Eat World songs.

    It’s that balance, as Adkins once put it on “Futures”, “between living decent, and the cold and real,” that summarizes Jimmy Eat World’s entire career, and it’s this delicate balance which formulates the structure at the very root of Integrity Blues. It’s the striving for someone, a significant other, a group of friends, or perhaps a parental figure, that will push you to become better than you are. Integrity Blues is about knowing you’re bound to fail once or twice, but vowing to pick yourself up off the mat, and become better for it. I don’t know what the future holds. I know there will be successes and I’m even more certain there will be failures, but I know that Jimmy Eat World will be there, providing the soundtrack to those night drives every step of the way.

  2. RoKKeR

    The Fly

    I had to make a comment here, because I was on my second ever listen of Futures just now, The World You Love was playing, and the second I opened up to check the front page the lyric right at the top of this article was playing as I started reading...

    I'm a bit freaked out at that coincidence, but I'll take it as a sign to keep listening to more Jimmy Eat World! Currently digging into their discography after seeing the hype around the new album here.

  3. Brenden

    Trusted Prestigious

  4. Matt504

    Trusted Prestigious

    The last JEW album I enjoyed before this one was Chase This Light, so it's been a long time coming...
  5. Ryan G

    Moderator Moderator

    Seriously a fantastic review. Probably my AOTY.
  6. Anthony_

    A (Cancelled) Dork Prestigious

    Great review, Craig. Since there's pretty much nothing else major for me coming out the rest of the year, I can probably safely say this will be my AOTY when all is said and done. Also, as to this quote:

    "Lyrically, ['Pass the Baby'] is a lot to unpack and I imagine there will be a great deal of conversation about lyrical interpretations on the title phrase. I have come to view it as something of a commentary on the music industry and its obsession with fetishizing young, typically female, bodies . . . "

    This was exactly my interpretation of the song as well. I do agree that it is open to interpretation, but this one just feels so right to me.
  7. SayHello


    This album is going to go down as their best album by a majority of fans. It might take twenty years removed, but it will be. It left me speechless. Huge arena rock songs that don't necessarily need a poppy-shining-glamorous hook to be explosive, fulfilling, and satisfying tracks. Also, there is a mistake in the review "maybe be". :)
  8. Nick Martin

    There are no answers. Only choices.

    Agreed. There were a handful of songs I enjoyed on Invented and Damage, but overall both albums held no lasting value and didn't resonate with me as much as their material from the early 2000s.
  9. NitrateDawn


    Great review Craig. After a couple listens I'm not quite as head-over-heels for it, as it sounds like you had a more personal experience with it, but I do think it's another incredibly solid JEW album and I'm finding it more fascinating each time I listen.

    That ending combo of "Integrity Blues" and "Pol Roger" could end up rivaling the end of CTL for me, we'll see.
  10. Great album. This review is super great. I love the story of you driving and putting this album on. Same experience I had. I love it
  11. Eml182


    Really digging this album- tons of nuance so you really have to listen multiple times. This review is fantastic and makes me want to listen to it again immediately (about to) so well done, especially describing the two halves.

    Bonus for me is revisiting Damage after this and really enjoying it for the first time ever. This album is so heavy and deep that the dichotomy of Damage plays off really well as it is a bit more straightforward and now without the pretense of being the new JEW release.
  12. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Great stuff, @Craig Ismaili. I'm glad you kept the personal parts in there. Those are my favorite types of reviews to read, and your intro does a great job of capturing what it's been like to grow up with this band. Fuck, it's such a gutpunch in the feels seeing that line from "The World You Love" at the beginning of this review and knowing I've lost touch with a bunch of the people who were in my life when I first heard that song.
  13. efp722


    Great review. AOTY for sure.
  14. Snewt

    Does whatever a spider can. Prestigious

    Great review as always @Craig Ismaili

    I love this album so much and still have yet to fully dive in to the lyrics. You have motivated me to do so.
    Brenden likes this.
  15. Craig Ismaili

    @tgscraig Prestigious

    Yeah, definitely give it a few more listens, see if it grows on you. You definitely don't need to have the immediate visceral emotional reaction I had to fall in love with this record.

    Man, that's pretty wild. Thanks for sharing. I definitely think you should check out the rest of the discography. If you've been enjoying Futures, a great place to start would be this record, and I don't know if you've ever heard Chase This Light, but that album is highly regarded around these parts as well.

    Thanks boo.

    I've enjoyed the last two, but not nearly to the same degree as Chase This Light or this record.

    It's likely to be mine as well, or at least in the top 3 with The 1975 and The Hotelier somewhere.

    Interesting that someone else had the same lyrical interpretation. I thought in some respects I may have been way off-base but I'm glad I have someone backing me up on this. Still need to do a real deep dive on the lyrics for that one again to see if I can root out anything else.

    Thanks, I'm glad the prevailing takeaway seems to be getting people to dive back in not just to this record but to the discography again. This band has an unparalled consistency in their discography that I don't think gets enough credit.

    I do wonder if there's ever been a better night driving band than Jimmy Eat World.

    I'm glad I did too. I think I still did enough of the record break down that I felt like people could skip the personal if they felt like getting down to the nitty gritty without feeling cheated out of analysis. But yeah I think looking back on their discography and how much I've changed since really deep-diving into this band for the first time several years ago, it's kind of wild to think about all the ways their music has affected my life. So I would be remiss if I didn't discuss that.
    JRGComedy and Anthony_D'Elia like this.
  16. Craig Ismaili

    @tgscraig Prestigious

    Snewt likes this.
  17. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I think it's dumb to suppress that stuff if you're feeling it, honestly. Like, for me with this band, it feels almost dishonest to try to write about them without mentioning how much they've meant to me for the past 12 years of my life. You did a good job of balancing both pieces of the review, though, so I don't think anyone could have gripes with this.
  18. Leftandleaving

    I will be okay. everything Supporter

    Real good piece Craig
  19. AshlandATeam


    This record is perfect. And this review is just as good as the album. Thanks for it!!

    'You Are Free,' 'The End is Beautiful' and 'Through' will go down as one of the best stretches of music on any JEW album ever.
  20. thecobrakais


    love this review.
    love this album.
    love JEW.
  21. fran.182

    Regular Prestigious

    Congrats, your review is great (I've read a dozen for IB and this was easily my favorite).

    Good job at balancing personal life, extracting moods/themes of the songs and contextualizing the band's past.
  22. Smage Oct 25, 2016
    (Last edited: Oct 25, 2016)

    lo mein connoisseur Supporter

    @Craig Ismaili Shout out to that North Jersey highway :thumbup: Also have to agree that 'You Are Free,' 'The End is Beautiful' and 'Through' is one hell of stretch. It Matters is also noteworthy
  23. hongfong00

    The sky had blackened with carrion birds. Supporter

    I have an extra ticket to the show at the Glass House this Thursday if anyone is interested....send me a message :)