It’s really no wonder that the influx of flash-in-the-pan successes leaves people so flustered. After all, it replaces genuine talent and intent of acts that consistently follow their own path with needless hype and trend-following. And for a band like Jimmy Eat World, a band whose entire career has been defined by their stoic nature to stay as far away from such frivolous amenities as possible, these kind of acts are the most dangerous. It brings what could possibly be a new light to the title of their ninth album Integrity Blues, the frustration of remaining in stasis despite sticking to your guns.
Though listening through this album, you’d be hard pushed to find anything on the surface that comes close to ‘frustrated’. Integrity Blues largely feels like another Jimmy Eat World album with all the necessary components – twinkling, shimmering emo guitars and a radiated warmth from Jim Adkin’s heartfelt lyrics and vocals. And yes, while any frustration was destined to be absent, the choice is deliberate given the real lyrical meaning of Integrity Blues, to recognise the positives in life and live that carpe diem mentality, even through the adversity of heartbreak. It’s a good fit for Jimmy Eat World, given their earnest approachability that makes it all the sweeter and more believable. Take You With Me and You Are Free, both tackling toxic relationships and outlining how both partners would be better off on their own, or Through, which is essentially the advice to stop trying to find favour with those only out to spread negativity. No matter how downbeat this album can be at times and how skewed the lyrical framing can appear (there’s an irritating passiveness to You Are Free in which the narrator only highlights his partner’s liberation, suggesting he didn’t want it to end), there’s a core of optimism that shines through Integrity Blues that give it an assuring warmth.
The songwriting is probably the most consistent factor of Integrity Blues, as instrumentally it’s a bit more hit or miss. It’s a much more lowkey album that some of their past material, moving away from explosive radio choruses and into something a bit more refined and plaintive. At its best, there’s a gorgeous intimacy that Jimmy Eat World play with such conviction and honesty that it’s easy to believe their every word. There’s a wistful expansiveness to tracks like Sure And Certain and It Matters, and closer Pol Rogers uses its almost seven minute runtime to unravel itself into a true beauty of a track with gauzy, shimmering melodies and featherweight instrumentals. They’re the kind of songs that Jimmy Eat World can knock out in their sleep at this point (Carry You and Just Watch The Fireworks are enough evidence for that), but for as likeable as these songs are, and with a production style that’s slick but just washed out enough so that it doesn’t feel overproduced, the Jimmy Eat World on Integrity Blues is one that lets their songs do all the heavy lifting.
Still, when the band veer away from their tried-and-tested method, the results take one hell of a dive, and if they were any more prominent they’d threaten to throw the album off the rails completely. Quite why Jimmy Eat World have decided to throw electronics into their sound nine albums in is puzzling, but at least they aren’t too noticeable most of the time. When they’re brought to the fore is where the problems begin, like on Pretty Grids with its stiff, staccato beat that feels unbearably forced. The worst is definitely Pass The Baby though, driven by a backbeat that elbows away any organic instrumentation and has none of the liquid delicacy that this album strives so hard to achieve, before breaking into a doomy, Sabbath-esque guitar passage that doesn’t even try to fit in. It’s reminiscent of what The Gaslight Anthem did on Get Hurt, getting rid of rootsy elegance in favour of some brave dalliances with modern sounds. And just like The Gaslight Anthem, Jimmy Eat World feel completely out of their depth here (as well as destroying the potential subtext that underpins the album’s title).
But where the two majorly differ is that Integrity Blues feels much more efficient that Get Hurt, less overweight with greater clarity. It’s definitely an entertaining listen, one that’s lacking in real thrills but makes up for it with beauty and a heart ripped open and left to bleed over all of the album. Compared to their last couple of albums it’s a definite step up in terms of Jimmy Eat World being the band they once were – it feels comparatively slight in both instrumental presence and infectiousness, but instead highlights a new side of the band, one favouring texture and nuance before a quick fix. It demands repeated listens to reap the full rewards, yet when it really clicks, Integrity Blues refuses to let go.
For fans of: Moose Blood, Saves The Day, The Get Up Kids
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Integrity Blues’ by Jimmy Eat World is out now on RCA Records.