Jimmy Eat World’s song structures mostly follow the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus convention. They start and end with little else; while staying simple can be a songwriting virtue, here it makes most of the tunes indistinguishable. This is especially true for tracks eight through 11.
Producer Butch Vig, who has helmed some of the best rock records ever made (Nirvana’s Nevermind, The Smashing Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream and Against Me!’s New Wave), hurts the songs just as much. While his super slick overdubbing prowess enhances cuts like “Big Casino” and “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues,” overall he renders Chase This Light a lifeless, cluttered and unremarkable studio creation.
Buried beneath rehashed chords and overproduction, however, is frontman Jim Adkins, who is still every bit as empathetic a singer and lyricist as ever. Chase This Light finds him struggling with getting older. On lead single “Big Casino,” he writes, “I’ll tell you something else you ain’t died enough to know/There’s still some living left when your prime comes and goes.”
When Adkins hits the chorus of “I’ll accept with poise/with grace/when they draw my name from lottery,” one can’t help but feel that he’s singing about the music industry.
Jimmy Eat World was hot to trot back in 2001 when “The Middle” dropped, but since then these angsty rockers have been supplanted by Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, Panic! at the Disco, Paramore, etc. Having watched his peers in The Get Up Kids, The Promise Ring, Mineral, and so on fall apart, Adkins is surrounded by a bunch of kids he can’t relate with much.
He keeps his lyrics specific enough to provide a story, but vague enough to feel applicable to anyone. The music industry interpretation of “Big Casino,” and all of Chase This Light in general, is just one of several viewpoints one could take.
Adkins’ other saving grace is his infectious melodies. While his guitar parts lack crunch, his “whoa-ohs” are still top notch. Mock clunkers like “Dizzy” and “Firefight” all you want; but, if you can’t hop on hits like “Let It Happen” or “Electable (Give It Up),” then you’re just a jerk.
Musically, Chase This Light is a Bleed American/Futures throwback with diminished returns. Not as catchy or heart-tugging as those albums, the middling Chase This Light still has a few knockout sure-to-be-singles.