Revisiting Jimmy Eat World — Bleed American (2001)
Disclaimer: I was all-aboard when this album dropped, I sang it loudly in my car while driving the South Louisianan backroads. Sometimes, even with the windows rolled down. This is a classic turn-of-the-century album, not just because of how fun it is. But, it now represents a moment in American culture; a snapshot of the American psyche just prior to 9/11.
- Jimmy Eat World’s fourth studio album
- Band members: Jim Adkins, Tom Linton, Rich Burch, & Zach Lind
- released on July 24, 2001, by DreamWorks Records
- 11 tracks — 46 minutes
- released a few weeks before the 9/11 WTC attacks
- shortly after, the album has been renamed Jimmy Eat World
- producer by Mark Trombino
- RIAA platinum (1 million records sold)
- #429 on NME: Top 500 albums of all-time
Starting off with one of their most driven songs on the album, Bleed American, not shying away from an all too common American predicament:
I’m not alone ’cause the TV’s on,
yeah I’m not crazy ’cause I take the right pills
every day And rest, clean your conscience,
clear your thoughts with Speyside with your grain
They come out guitars blazing with little breathing room between songs. Jimmy Eat World is fast-paced at setting the bar high for power-pop with A Praise Chorus. Highly compressed guitars and well recorded performances have captured Jim Adkins and crew in peak condition. Perfect pop-punk backing vocals and a desperate need to want to live in the moment of
I’m on my feet, I’m on the floor, I’m good to go
So come on, Davey, sing me something that I know
I want to always feel like part of this was mine
I want to fall in love tonight
The Middle, a perfect punk-pop song, poignant to many kids/people feeling unseen in this large and intimidating world:
There was a girl who wrote in saying that she was not feeling like she fit in at her school, because she wasn’t punk enough. I guess [The Middle] is sort of directed at her. People love to argue about what “punk rock” means, but I think a basic tenet that everyone might agree on is a level of open-mindedness. I just found it funny that these people who were identifying with punk would be closed-minded towards someone for not being punk enough, and just felt like, “They don’t get it, and you shouldn’t worry about them.” — Jim Adkins (Jimmy Eat World)
My daughter and I used to belt this song in the car, it was in the family favorites ever since. It’s just so fun. Even the rockabilly solo sounds completely in place, I think due to the band’s solid vision throughout the song. I love an album that branches and veers, but this isn’t one of those. It’s very clear about its style, nothing truly experimental, this is just a great album filled with very well-written and performed pop songs. It has a generational angsty sound to it that may overlooked (and possibily dated), but it speaks directly about the youth’s need to be seen and heard.
Your House, emotional, yet slightly hopeful, song about anguish. Nothing like a great pop song to juxtapose feelings with musically opposing elements. I mean there are only a few people in the world who can’t sympathize with the lyricism of Jim Adkins & Tim Linton. The ideas are simple and universal. Sweetness shows that sometimes words can be used as filler, if the emotion is beyond them, as long as there is something of substance as a secondary ingredient.
Are you listening?
is the ingredient; again, that need to be heard. (The song is actually about a “recovery from a band breakup.”) The great part about this album is how fine a line they drew between being overly personal and being vague. It allows many different interpretations from a listener’s point of view. Hear You End is a song about a couple of fans, who passed in a car crash. The title is a phrase they used often on the forums. But, there are plenty of people passed in my own life that I can sing this directly about, in my own voice.
May angels lead you in
Hear you me my friends
On sleepless roads the sleepless go
May angels lead you in
That’s the beauty of this album to me. I’m not a big mass appeal fan, but I approve of this album. The Beatles had extreme mass appeal, but that wasn’t considered negative then, but times have changed somehow, and being too popular immediately turns some music aficionados off. I have been guilty. Art should be expressive, yes, but its expression must be received, otherwise, does it work? If You Don’t, Don’t is another near-perfectly formulaic power-pop song, with boy-band-like backing vocals. The Bad: It’s not a technical album, it’s recorded somewhat flat and compressed (just a touch too much), without movement from track to track. The album has a bit of the early ’00s sound (think Blink 182 or Fall Out Boy), but don’t hold that against it. It stand strong still after 20 years. The Good: The great thing about this album is that it’s a wonderful collection of well-crafted pop songs at a very particular time in American culture (pre-9/11). When I re-listened I half expected to hear a large shift in the America psyhe,, but I realize things may not have changed as much as I had thought. Our youth still yearn with all of the same needs of fitting in; of having self-assurance. I suppose that’s a timeless subject.
Jimmy Eat World had to change the album and song name, Bleed American, to Salt, Sweat, Sugar because of radio stations not wanting to offend, after 9/11. Get It Faster, starts with some experimental textures before dropping in with crunchier guitars than previously heard on the album. Lyrically wanting to get out of a relationship, Jim’s guitar speaks his agitations. A wonderful, tight echo on the rhythm guitar through the verses of Cautioners, filling in the later moments with keys and spacious sounds, prepping the way for upcoming soft-angelic ‘ahhs’. A teenage doo-wop rock merges for The Authority Song, which is catchy, but terribly poppy, too poppy. Maybe, if I was in high school again, it would be fine. Slowing the paces for Sundown, acoustic down strokes of a garage band, morphs into the full support of the band, but in keeping with the drive of that simple strum. Singing lyrics that on the surface seem rude, but if you listen to the smirk of enlightenment, the slight hopeful tone to his knowing that,
With one hand high, you’ll show them your progress
You’ll take your time, but no one cares
No one cares
Message — No one’s really watching. Be yourself. There’s enough of everyone else.
Final Thought: It’s a clean album that captures the elements of the songs wonderfully. The production stands out of the way, not making any artisitic statements and Jimmy Eat World crafts well-written pop-rock songs that we can all sing along to. The album is a great success because of this very simple formula and has found a home in the hearts of countless. Greatness doesn’t need tricks, and this album didn’t need to employ any. Thank you.