When I first heard Jimmy Eat World quite awhile back on an Emo comp, they completely rocked my world. Not only could they go from quiet to loud in a split second, but the song that I heard was well put together and made me want a lot more. When I got their first full-length release, Static Prevails, I was surprised that they had made it onto a major label, but they managed to keep nearly the same amount of interesting dynamics in their songs and the album was pretty solid as a whole. Although I remembered reading some dissent among indie purists about the group, I thought that they captured the feel of the genre quite well and hoped that they could make a good showing on the big label and perhaps expose some other smaller quality bands and get them the recognition they deserved.
Instead of being the next pop-punk, though, emo has mainly still had to somewhat languish in the shadows (despite a few high-profile mentions in big mags like Spin of the Promise Ring, Rainer Maria, and Joan Of Arc) while more pop-punk bands (Blink-182) came in and took the place of old ones (Green Day). Really, the community (and I use that term in a somewhat loose way) doesn't seem to mind, either, as most small subgenres view large media recognition as something that taints the thing they've enjoyed for so long.
Now that I seem to have gotten completely off track, let me get back to the album at hand. Whereas Jimmy Eat World's last album was mainly a high-spirited affair, with lots of blasts of sound offset by quiet moments, Clarity is nearly the exact opposite. Instead, the group has made a much more quiet, introspective album, with few moments of blistering guitars. It's not to say that it's not good, it's just different. Fans of the groups old sound may be somewhat dissapointed in what at first sounds like a very milquetoast recording despite a few louder offerings.
The disc starts off with the very quiet "Table For Glasses," before picking up somewhat into the very radio-friendly "Lucky Denver Mint." The mid-tempo song moves along at a nice pace with just the right amount of guitars and feedback, as well as a multi-part chorus that is ripe for sing-along. The group picks things up greatly on "Your New Aesthetic" with guitars of old and much more snappy drumming. With lyrics about taking back the radio airwaves from more stale groups, it's good that the group fit it with a more aggressive sound rather than one of the more plainly decorated ones, otherwise they would have definitely fallen victim to their own agenda. The group again picks things up several track later with "Crush," only to drop off into something more quiet again right away with a light drum machine beat and light guitar strumming on "12.23.95."
This sort of two-quiet, one-louder formula continues for nearly the rest of the album, but even the louder tracks just don't contain the same fervor that the group had on Static Prevails. The slower songs are still catchy, but overall the album shows a different side of the group (whether it's more their decision or the powers that be at Capitol is still up for debate). Another thing that is different (and for the most part a better thing) is that the group shows a lot more variation on their instrumentation, using organs and keyboards on several tracks for another layer of sound, as well as playing with other little variations (like a drum machine) for musical flavor. Really, you can't fault a group for trying new things, especially if they don't completely go off course and mess things up. That, and maybe they thought that quieter numbers might get them more girls. I can understand.