Released Jun. 11th on RCA.
On their last album, 2010’s Invented, Jimmy Eat World piled on all the new tricks they’d been adding to their sound over the previous decade: pianos, synthesizers, orchestral string sections, and female backing vocals on half the tracks. By comparison, Damage seems positively stripped down, more sonically in common with 2004’s Futures. It still has some of those flairs, but they’re more subdued, adding flourish to the band’s guitar-driven emo rock instead of overshadowing it.
While Invented and 2007’s Chase This Light were recorded digitally at the band’s practice space and involved multiple pop-minded producers (Chris Testa, Butch Vig, John Fields, Mark Trombino), Damage was recorded in the home of producer Alain Johannes (known for his work with Eleven, Queens of the Stone Age, and Them Crooked Vultures) using a combination of analog tape and ProTools, with instruments set up in different rooms of the house. Although the finished product is certainly polished in that glistening Jimmy Eat World way, it sounds warmer and more resonant than those previous two albums.
Lyrically, Damage is much more focused than its predecessor. For Invented Jim Adkins chose unrelated photographs and wrote stories around them, but for Damage he set out to write an “adult breakup record”. Though this might sound like a very emo concept, it’s actually the antithesis of the genre’s usually angst-ridden, one-sided, teenage approach to heartache. Damage addresses the end of a relationship from a grown-up, sophisticated perspective. “I want someone who lives up to the grandeur in my head”, Adkins sings on the title track, “And you don’t do much to sell me; I’d be best with you instead”. “Are we too damaged now to possibly connect? To honestly connect?” he asks later in the song. With its obvious title, “I Will Steal You Back” deals with jealousy, while in “Please Say No” he’s pushing love away. On standout guitar rocker “No, Never” he’s warning his lover “There’s some things you should never have known about / We have a good thing but you’re better off not asking me how”. This notion of looking at love through adult eyes, and realizing it’s neither storybook romance nor teenage drama, is the prevailing theme of Damage‘s concept.
With its warm sound, simplified feel, and lyrical focus, Damage connects more strongly than any of JEW’s albums since Futures. Though it’s not breaking new ground, it’s certain to please fans who remember falling for the band at the turn of the millennium. Its mature take on relationships should in turn appeal to those fans, who’ve grown up along with the band and experienced many of the nuanced emotions the album explores.