I think I speak for everyone when I say every time I listen to a new piece of Jimmy Eat World material there’s part of me that wants to condescendingly call it cute and another part that’s like horrified that Jim Adkins is going to bare his teeth and take us on a jolting ride akin to Korn or Haste the Day.
And Surviving, tipped off by its focused, crunchy and vaguely Spoon-harkening opening title track, though far from nu metal, is active verification that the Mesa, Arizona duo have stockpiled some gas in the tank for this social media age, when every violent punch of the snare drum seems like a rebellion, when just the act of still caring seems radical. What’s suggested too by the opener is more than validated by “Criminal Energy,” that Adkins came to win and he’s not here to play, wielding more than the requisite confidence to direct the song into something permanent, amidst guitar riffs that, though fiery, can nil do more than compliment his alpha male diatribes. These diatribes tend to headily comment on current society and simultaneously dole out advice to live by, something his band has been always sort of obnoxiously good at doing.
Up to its point, “Delivery” is the strongest cut on the album, besting “Futures” in the realm of lyrical depth and the totality of Bleed American in the realm of the ability of the music to act as a plangent, patient and deliberate sort of ACHE. The two even seem to compliment each other flawlessly with sort of balladry-adjacent centerpiece billowing out a veteran plea of resignation: “I can only be / So much potentially / From the rest I patiently request / Delivery”. Note Adkins’ commendable penchant for plopping this four-syllable titular word down in perfect placement within the airtight chorus, like a game of word Tetris. In the meantime, Zach Lind continues to pound those drums with a distinct intensity and rhythmic knack, his sound on this track flourishing into something textural and melodic that might fall on even a tUnE-yArDs, album. Along these lines, this album’s gotten pretty little publicity so far and even Wikipedia has slept on it, failing to generate the article as of release date. My Google search for the band’s last producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen was pretty uneventful, though (whereas I did find word of Zach Lind calling Stephan Jenkins a “really creepy douche bag,” which was pretty tickling) and the band themselves co-produced 2016’s Integrity Blues. All of this points to the members themselves having a significant hand in sound-hewing on Surviving, behooving the masquerade of calling this their best album, which indeed it may be. The mix of textural drums and punchy guitars wouldn’t disallow as much.
If nothing else, Surviving makes a strong case for most consistent. Neo-pop right turn “555” even justifies its own existence, against all odds, with some throaty bass synth governing the chorus’ sound and Adkins sounding cocksure as ever as he spews the line “Always a reason for the pain”. Still, in light of how authoritative live-drummer Lind had been up to this point, this bout of programmed drums and hit single pandering weren’t an experiment for trying at home. “One Mil” finds Adkins’ vocal cloaking the melody and mix with an almost preternatural smoothness, like syrup on pancakes, and thankfully, the band crank back up the “rock,” up to here an understated bulwark of Surviving. Not so much, though, taking himself less SERIOUSLY than Brandon Boyd of Incubus (since Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” there hasn’t been much room for sarcasm in mainstream rock), Adkins rather just seems more in his element and more human, almost more vulnerable, and his lyrics to a greater extent cloaked in a palatable poetic opacity.