Jimmy Eat World
Exotic Location Recordings · October 18, 2019
The album starts out with the title track, a rock song with an inspiring message – a pleasant surprise for the listener expecting a more electronic sound like that of the previous release, Integrity Blues. “Surviving” looms large with what might be the band’s strongest performance on the record, with a powerful guitar riff that keeps up throughout as Jim Adkins sings, “In a lot of ways you’re still that lost kid / You can still survive but not exactly live.” As the song fades out, “Criminal Energy,” bursts in with a fitting amount of anger and fun as a new, shredding guitar line starts up, much more raw and angry than the one before.
The energy stays up for much of the rest of the album, whether the tempo follows or not: even the slower tracks on the record have a fun vibe. The record also includes a handful of rock ballads like the more produced, electronic “555.” This track might have felt at home on Jimmy Eat World’s more recent albums, where they leaned more heavily on post-production elements, and its lyrics about feeling stuck in one place lend to that. However, it is another great moment on the record, where the listener can sit back for a moment and get lost in the music.
Other high points include “One Mil,” “Diamond” and “All the Way (Stay),” the last of which is a jazzy number that makes its saxophone line work while still keeping up a youthful rock sense that is impressive for a band that has been around this long, and shows that they are still able to incorporate new elements into their music. The song’s lyrics fit that feeling, too – Adkins sings about the beginnings of new relationships, saying, “There’s what I want and what I need / And the latter takes a while to see / It doesn’t matter how often or how old.”
While these high points do exist, many of the songs on Surviving sound like they could have come from practically any piece of Jimmy Eat World’s discography. This suggests they have not changed much over the past 23 years. “Delivery” sounds like it could have come from my mom’s car radio in 2004, while “Recommit” similarly feels like a sleepy, over-produced throwback, despite its feel-it-in-your-chest bass line.
Despite its shortcomings, the writers of “The Middle” have made it as far as 2019 is something to be respected and celebrated. Surviving stands as a passionate album full of emotion, something that a lesser band may not have been able to keep up. Jimmy Eat World have made it clear in their tenth record that while they may no longer be operating in the heyday of emo rock bands, they won’t let that stop them from making great, timeless music.
Listen to Surviving: