Fewer than two minutes into Chase This Light, Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins proclaims “I’m a New Jersey success story!” Oddly enough, the Arizona-bred band isn’t actually from the Garden State, but its success story is real enough.

The alt-rock outfit attracted a small fan base early in its career, releasing two experimental “new-punk” albums before finding huge mainstream success with its third album, Bleed American. The LP displayed a drastic change in style for the band, which began to sound more like fellow emo contemporaries Saves the Day and less like the Fugazi-inspired work of previous efforts. The video for the widely successful single “The Middle” became a fan favorite for 14-year-old girls and underwear fetishists alike. On its most recent release, Chase This Light, the band continues to embrace the power-chord riffs that made it an emo powerhouse, but it fails to develop its sound beyond the expected.

Chase This Light plays from start to finish like your standard power-pop album with little deviation between tracks. The songs are largely chorus-driven, which offer such insights as “For you and me, there’s nowhere left to hide / Except you and me, there’s no one else alive.”

As with previous albums, nearly the entire record deals with issues involving failed relationships and an inability to connect. While it sometimes alternates between fast-paced rock (“Electable (Give It Up)”) and more mellow songs (“Carry You,” “Dizzy”), most of the tracks follow the same formula that made the band, and plenty of others, an MTV-hit wonder.

“Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues,” placed awkwardly between two loud, emo-pop packed jams, could be the album’s designated “sad song.” Over a miniature orchestra comprised of a string section and consistent bass line, singer Adkins lowers his high-pitched voice to a somber whisper, befitting the song’s serious tone. This combination creates an eerie space for Adkins to work. True, the lyrics aren’t any more intelligent (“Where you gonna look? / When they come for you / Will there be someone / Left to sing your blues?”), but at least the song fits Adkins’s lyrics more so than elsewhere.

Much of Chase This Light can’t be immediately pigeonholed as emo, which is a good thing, but it’s clear the album’s creators had that fan base in mind, which is to say most of the lyrics appeal to the confused stage of adolescence. Rather than experiment with more advanced song structures, the band stagnates.

Although it’s true Jimmy Eat World’s sound has influenced a slew of knock-offs in recent years, the band shouldn’t fall into the unglamorous trend of knocking-off itself.

Most Jimmy Eat World fans who have followed the band since its Bleed American days will not be disappointed by Chase This Light. The band comes off as slightly more mature, considering its band members are about to be pushing 30. Unfortunately, those eager for either a return to their more experimental days or for an entirely new direction shouldn’t get their hopes up. MTV, on the other hand, is feeling just fine.

Jimmy Eat World
Chase This Light

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

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