19 years ago today, Jimmy Eat World released an album that would not only take the scene but the mainstream by storm. We look back on its successes and how it continues to be as important today as it has ever been.
Albums come in all shapes and sizes. There are big albums and little albums. There are really long albums and there are incredibly short albums. There are albums that arrive with incredible fanfare and there are albums that make an understated and low-key entrance. There are albums that hit you in the gut the first time that you hear them and there are albums that creep up your spine and devour you over a long period of time. Then there are the albums that have such an influence on all those who hear it that they become the stuff of legends.
‘Bleed American’ by Jimmy Eat World is one such album.
Released in the summer of 2001, ‘Bleed American’ would be the 4th record released by the Arizona natives. Following on from ‘99’s now iconic ‘Clarity’, it would become known as the moment that saw Jimmy leapt from emo sweethearts to genuine world-beaters. Much more commercially accessible than their previous output yet still possessing the same intricate level of beautiful songwriting and emotional outpouring that had planted them firmly in the hearts of thousands previously, it would send them to places that they had never been before. Certified platinum in the USA and Canada and silver in the UK, the lines between scene and mainstream acceptance were more blurred than ever before.
The album features four singles, each one a modern classic in its own right. First is the deliriously frantic title track with its bludgeoning riff and overpoweringly sultry undertones. Then there's ‘The Middle’, an anthem for every outcast looking for a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Following that is ‘Sweetness’ with a hook that sticks to you like bubblegum in your hair and a dizzying instrumental display that could get even the most stubborn of toes tapping. And finally ‘A Praise Chorus’, a song that manages to demonstrate all the best things about emo, pop-punk and rock music in 3 beautifully considered minutes. All four very different and all four held in the highest regard, they are now considered blueprints of alternative music songwriting. Basically if you're in a band and you're not aiming to emulate the same energy as these tunes, you're doing it wrong.
Then you have the familiar heartbreak of ‘You Hear Me’, the careful pitter patter of ‘Cautioners’, the beautifully tranquil ‘If You Don’t, Don’t’, the jaunty ‘The Authority Song’, the underlying funkiness of ‘My House’ and the tear stained delicacy of closer ‘My Sundown’. Every song serving as a snapshot of a different set of feelings. Every song a 3-chord masterpiece in its own unique way. Every song meaning absolutely everything to somebody somewhere in the world. This is the sort of legacy that can only come with the most incredible level of care, consideration and creativity.
When a band create an album they don’t really know what sort of reaction it is going to get. Nobody can predict how much their art is going to affect the lives of others, no matter how much they try and convince you of the fact. Yet Jimmy Eat World could never have thought just how much ‘Bleed American’ would do for them. Placing them firmly in the hearts and minds of not just those already familiar but the wider world as wel and tapping into corners of the musical landscape that they could only have dreamed of touching previously, you wonder how many bands simply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the risks that the band took back in 2001. From Neck Deep to State Champs, Seaway to As It Is, there is a little bit of Jimmy Eat World sprinkled in all of their DNA. If you go to a Jimmy Eat World show you will see as many fans of pop-punk and hardcore or you do radio rock and pop. There are as many people who will have heard these songs for the first time blaring out of tannoys at football matches as there are staring lovingly at the artwork as the album spins round on their record player. From every band that has been stood in their garage brainstorming ideas with ‘Sweetness’ playing in the background to every person hearing ‘The Middle’ blasting out of their car radio and being inspired to look deeper into the band and emo’s rich and illustrious back catalogue, ‘Bleed American’ has played a part. The sheer spectrum of admiration that this one record has conjured is more than most bands will garner in their whole career.
Nostalgia has become a big part of how we process music in the modern climate. Remembering the things that helped us become the people we are today and celebrating them is something that we all do on a near daily basis. Yet ‘Bleed American’ is an example of an album that continues to affect people in the exact same way today as it did when it first came out. Despite now being old enough to go and see ‘Midsommar’ on its own at the cinema, the album still has the power to influence, inspire and enamor as it did back when it first the shelves. Every song still as piercing and personal, every note still as fresh as when it was first played, every lyric still poetic, vulnerable and truly human, these 11 songs will forever be timeless and serve as the starting place for people’s musical blossoming until the world stops turning.
Music is at its very best when it can bring us all together and with albums like ‘Bleed American’ that sentiment is a much easier reality.