Sunday, March 29, 2009

my skeptic sight

I should've been in bed an hour or two ago but when I got home for the evening I found myself at, downloading Jimmy Eat World b-sides from Futures and Chase This Light.

I think I was in 8th grade when I heard JEW (that's how you abbreviate Jimmy Eat World -- I'm not being antisemitic, I'm promise). My older brother Spencer bought a pair of Doc Marten's (after all, it was the 90s, so why not?) and it came with a Capitol Records CD sampler. Jimmy Eat World's "Call It in the Air" was featured on said sampler. As a young junior high schooler I remember hearing talk of Jimmy Eat World, how they were a popular local band, how a few of them had attended the local high school, etc. I was anxious to check them out.

I put my brother's CD sampler in my Discman (this thing was legit!) and punched the track button till I heard the soon-to-be-familiar feedback swell of "Call It in the Air". Through pummeled power chords I heard a raspy Jim Adkins sing, "Leave home today / Escape your region" (I think that's what he sings, he's so hard to understand on that song). I instantly felt an aching yet compelling nostalgia that I hadn't felt since I heard "My Name is Jonas" for the first time; frankly, it frightened me. You see, at the time -- and throughout most of my junior and senior high school experience -- I was obsessed with Weezer. And any other band capable of evoking a feeling that I had only previously felt with Weezer was clearly a threat. I mean, think about it, if Jimmy Eat World became my new favorite band, then Weezer wouldn't be my favorite band anymore. Yeah, it seems silly now, but this is a legitimate concern to any 8th grader.

In the back of my mind and in my brother's CD case Jimmy Eat World loomed as a constant threat; but, the coup d'etat never came. Toward the end of 9th grade Spencer introduced me to JEW's first big label release, Static Prevails. This album taught me that it was possible to like another band as much as Weezer. And what's more, I learned that it was OK if I liked another band more than Weezer.

Throughout high school Jimmy Eat World and Weezer traded places as my favorite bands, much like the way Neptune and Pluto trade places as the most distant planet from the sun (mind you, this was before Pluto was demoted to a lowly dwarf planet). On November 21, 1998 (I only remember this because it was my younger brother's birthday) my mom dropped me off -- along with three friends, Jeff, Devyn and Erich -- at Tempe Bowl (R.I.P.) for my first Jimmy Eat World concert. We didn't know the concert started at 9:00; we thought it started at 7:00 (rookie mistake) so we ended up hanging out in the bowling alley for two hours. We also ended up not having to pay because of that, so naïveté was to our benefit. I don't remember much of the concert, I just remember on the way home hearing Neil Diamond's "Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon" for the first time on the way home in my mom's car. The chorus was so easy to remember the four of us were singing along in no time.

A few months later in '99 Clarity was released. One of Spencer's best friends was dating one of the members of JEW's sister so I had been listening to demos of this album a few weeks before it was released. Right after the album came out JEW did a show at a now defunct venue in Tempe called the Green Room. It was a small venue so tickets were selling out fast. I promptly made a trip to Stinkweeds (R.I.P. Tempe location) and they were sold out of tickets. I went to Eastside Records and purchased the remaining 10 or so tickets for my friends and I. The next day at school I was accosted by an angry Kevin Williams who apparently had gone to Stinkweeds and Eastside right after me only to find out tickets were sold out. Sorry Kevin and friends.

Here in Idaho, I meet plenty of fellow students who live near Rexburg and take trips home for the weekend, be they from SLC or another city an Idaho. Being from Arizona, I've never had the luxury of a weekend trip home. So when I went home at the beginning of the month it seemed kind of silly. But it's not every day that Jimmy Eat World goes on tour playing Clarity in its entirety. Going wasn't a question of if, it was a matter of when and how I would be getting there.

As a special treat -- as if to make this concert a veritable blast from the past -- JEW called out of retirement No Knife, a long since departed band who had toured with JEW in their Static-Clarity days.

It would be rare to see any band play a show where they play one of their entire albums, but it would seem even more rare for them to play one of their least commercially successful albums. The Death Cab Transatlanticism tour? Forget about it. The Weezer Pinkerton tour? In my wildest of dreams. But here was Jimmy Eat World -- truly the people's band -- giving their die-hard fans a once in a lifetime experience.

No Knife's performance was without fault; anyone would have been surprised that they had not played together in six years. As amazing as it was to hear JEW play all of Clarity, I was surprised to notice how much I enjoyed their seven song encore, which was comprised of the 7" single "What Would I Say to You Now", "No Sensitivity" from the their split with Jebidiah and hits from their successive albums. I came for Clarity but ended up enjoying the other songs just as much, and at times, more.

How rare it is to find a band that cares about their fans and their music like Jimmy Eat World does. While I can't say that JEW has overthrown =w= as my favorite-of-all-time band, in regards to musical integrity and how they treat their fans, they've definitely earned much more respect than Weezer ever will. That is, until Weezer does the blue album/Pinkerton tour. But I won't hold my breath for that one.


  1. I haven't been listening to Jimmy Eat World much since coming home from my mission. This post just renewed my desire to acquire as much of their music as possible.
    I've always loved Clarity because it was JEW's most recent album at the time. I think I was a junior in high school and I remember it was the first CD I had purchased in a while that I enjoyed listening to all the way through.
    I pre-ordered a copy of Bleed American at Main Street Music and as I listened to it I realized that Jimmy Eat World wasn't just a band that had put out a great album, but one of my favorite bands.
    I sought out Static Prevails but could never find it in Rexburg or Idaho Falls or through BMG or Columbia House. When I finally obtained a crappy burned copy that was scratched on skipped on about half of the songs, I realized that I no longer needed a lot of the crappy punk albums I had faithfully acquired and started stashing them away in storage.
    I remember listening to For Me This is Heaven over and over again the last few nights before leaving for Brazil. I would only take it at of my CD player to listen to Hear You Me.
    Wow, sorry for making such a long comment Myke. Your post just caused me to reflect on such good times.

  2. This might be the best blog post I've ever read. Myke, I think it's great that music always seems to be on your mind.
    I've never given JEW(as they say) much of a shot, but after reading this I'm going to listen to Clarity today. I'm going to put on my headphones and listen to it start to finish.
    Also, you should think about sending this post to a magazine. It is very well written and entertaining to read.

  3. Quinn, I always enjoy hearing about how people get into bands so I enjoyed your post.

    Thanks for the props Zach, I really hope you love Clarity. It's a once in a lifetime album.

    You guys should both check out Futures. It came out in 2004 but it's more of a sequel to Clarity than Bleed American was in 2001. Their newest album Chase This Light is more of a pop album, so some die-hard fans don't like it as much for that reason. It took some time to grow on me but I think it's great.

    Also, if you feel like checking out any b-sides or really old school stuff from the early 90s let me know and I'll hook you up with the links.

  4. In response to Zach...Myke maybe you're the new Andy Greenwald but less pretentious??

  5. I don't know that I will ever forgive myself for not credit carding a ticket for jeff to fly to AZ and go to that concert.

    what was I thinking? I seriously failed that one.

    great post.

  6. Myke, your post moved me. As you know, I am also a long time JEW fan, and we've attended many a concert together. In fact, I was at both the Tempe Bowl show and the first time I went to your house was to meet up to go to the Green Room show. I will most certainly regret for years to come not going to this show. You have definitely inspired me to write a Jimmy post myself.

  7. Danny, to think we have JEW to thank for our years of friendship (well, chances are we would have met and been friends otherwise; it's just more romantic -- though not in a "love" sense -- to say we're friends because of a band). Although a shorter-haired Danny would have been somewhat out of place at a Clarity show, you were definitely missed. It's too bad the Chicago show sold out so quickly.

  8. I wonder at what point in Goodbye Sky Harbor your friend Zach started to regret vowing to listen to Clarity start to finish. Maybe minute 8? 11? 13?

    JEW does deserve some serious props. When I listen to bands like JEW, Knapsack, No Knife nowadays and then think about our music I feel like we totally ripped them off. But that stuff was just running through our veins at the time - it would have been impossible for us to create music without the indelible imprint of these rock pioneers.

    Instrumental songs, incorporating strings, dual lead singers, lengthy intros and outros - these were not new rock concepts; but at that time rock had just been reborn in its primal state, and JEW added layers and colors to it to make something that stood out. Kudos JEW.