Originally published in 2013 around the release of Jimmy Eat World’s Damage, this feature been updated in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the band’s classic breakthrough, Bleed American, on July 24th. And yes, we even reconnected with Jim Adkins to complete entries for every album JEW released since.
Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we sort through the entire discography of Jimmy Eat World — with its very own frontman, no less.
On multiple occasions during the anatomizing of this Dissected, I heard comments like, “Aren’t they just some band from the ’90s?” and, “Oh, are they making a comeback?” It’s like non-fans are under the impression that Jimmy Eat World released one major hit song and record in 1999, and then stopped recording or touring. In reality, the quartet from Mesa, Arizona have just released their seventh full-length (eighth, if you count the first self-titled album, but we’ll get there), the mature and solid Damage.
“I was sitting around watching the Grammys,” frontman Jim Adkins says about the genesis of Damage. “And I was watching Adele just clean up. I was like, ‘You know what, she’s an Adkins. I can fucking do that.’ I was like, ‘Okay, well love songs. We’ll just start there.’ And the kind of love songs that always interest me, that I wanted to explore, is the stuff that’s more based in heartbreak and emotional injury. The ‘I’m so happy I’m in love’ song, I don’t feel like there’s a story there.”
Sentiment like that is why Jimmy Eat World has often been pegged with the easily maligned alternative sub-genre lovingly (not?) known as emo. At the onset of a nearly 20 year career, Adkins and crew laid the groundworks for the genre, even if both fans and the band cringe at the label. But it’s not that guy-liner, dark clothed, “I bleed my love for you out to the floor so you can watch as I slowly drown” emo; just the sincere confessionals of an openhearted songwriter (we’ll play devil’s advocate on that later).
Jimmy Eat World has never been satisfactorily explained with easy labeling, however. Power pop, alternative, emo, and so on have all been thrown at the band, but to fans there’s just the melodic guitar rock and emotional balladry of JEW. While not every album has been a smash (though their arguably worst album is also their current highest charter), their discography as a whole deserves to be counted, and that’s what we’re here to do.
In celebration of Damage, we’re not going to do it alone. We called up Jim Adkins himself to get his insight on the band’s catalog. Don’t call it a comeback; they’ve been here for years.