I see your eyes going wide. “Jimmy Eat World!” you’re yelling. “Good gravy, man! Are you mad?!” Quite possibly, yes. Though I maintain that has little to do with this review.
When I was sent “Invented” for review, at first, I sneered. I had the option to turn it down, and my gut reaction was that I would. And yet, here we all are now, sharing this together as I write it and you read it. What on the good earth might have possessed me to go forward with the review? I’m glad you asked (if you didn’t ask, please humor me and pretend you did.)
First off, as I’m sure you can imagine, ninety percent, maybe more, of my musical life is metal. I listen to metal, I critique metal, I play metal on my bass. I talk metal, eat metal, sleep metal, see metal concerts and bore my very patient girlfriend with details about the minutia of metal. I can name all the metallic elements on the periodic table for goodness’ sake. So, every so often, now and again, it’s a nice change of pace for me to see what’s out there.
There’s more to it than that, obviously. If it were that alone, that feeling simply would have led me to retreat into my Dead Prez or KRS-One collection for a couple days.
In a brave new world of primped, prissy, perfumed vampires and the return of metal-in-makeup, I decided to take a dangerous foray into emo that I might see how the other half has evolved.
I can say in all honesty that I really don’t hate “Invented.” Trust me; no one is more shocked than me. While not my cup of tea, a lot of the brash, coming-of-age ambiguity, pretentious, pseudo-rebellious upstart attitude and “no one understands my profound underdeveloped teenage angst” emotional trappings have melted away with time. Given that those were always the most annoying qualities of emo as a whole (I will never give a pass to Dashboard Confessional. Never. I refuse to be the bigger man. There, I said it,) what’s left is an honest, if a bit milquetoast collection of songs from a band that’s done some growing since we last saw them.
“Heart is Hard to Find” is a nicely constructed, placid song that fits well in the niche of what Jimmy Eat World is trying to accomplish now. It sets the pace for the album ahead, though it’s worth noting that no other song approaches it in terms of accomplishment. The hopelessly poppy “Higher Devotion” is the other track that expressed the idiom of the band.
Part of emo’s original modus operandi was to resurrect the over-the-top costumes and make-up of 80’s glam, then magnify them through a lens of self-loathing and a contrived sense of melancholy. It is songs like “High Devotion” and “Movielike” which show that Jimmy Eat World, at least, has recognized that there was more to channel from glam and other 80’s radio pop than just the look and a Cold-War era fear of annihilation. They, and some others on the album, fold in a competent amalgam of pop rock from that era.
The problem with all that is that like so many albums, it never grows beyond that singular musical idea. There is very little exploration or diversity, each song sounds nearly like the last, and there is zero content that sets the pace at anything other than a brisk walk.
It’s not really worth it to me to go over the things about the album I personally don’t like, since every metal fan already knows what those things are, and in the digital music age, it’s so easy to just plain ignore and avoid music you don’t care for.
In the end, we see a tighter, mature, grown-up Jimmy Eat World. While metal fans certainly won’t be bending an ear, the fans who have grown up with them will probably find something to like. Your teenage daughter/sister/girlfriend (which should be three different people, unless you have some kind of "Chinatown" thing going on,) will just adore it. She’ll probably be listening to it as she blogs for the 574th time why Team Edward is unquestionably superior. Occasionally, you close your eyes and realize you just can’t win ‘em all.