I want to love Chase This Light. The hard-working, perpetual underdogs from Mesa, Arizona, know it, and they put so much emotion into every wannabe anthem that as a listener I almost feel forced to sing along, to answer every call with an equally passionate response. But I don’t love it, mostly for the same reasons I was disappointed with Futures, the band’s overblown 2004 follow-up to their 2001 capstone, Bleed American.
For hook-driven, chorus-heavy, passionate rock that tackles the confused, obsessed, emotional experience of adolescence, Bleed American may be the pinnacle of the genre. But Chase This Light comes with the same problem — to a slightly lesser extent — that Futures had. The members of Jimmy Eat World have grown up, but their themes and approach haven’t. Although “Big Casino” and the anthem-ready “Electable (Give It Up)” are as propulsive, energized, and cathartic as Bleed American’s self-titled opener and “Sweetness,” they, along with the simple, poppy, and undeniably catchy “Feeling Lucky,” are the album’s mature exceptions. They are great songs, but there are only three of them.
It’s unnerving and embarrassing to hear thirty-one-year-old frontman Jim Adkins sing a line like this, on “Always Be”: “I was just a boy like every other/ I thought I was something fierce/ I though I was ten times smarter/ Love would be something that I’d just know/ How you gonna know the feeling, till you’ve lost it?” Like the shiny but strangely immature trajectory Weezer has followed since Pinkerton, Jimmy Eat World doesn’t have a grasp anymore on the tenuous inner-mind of America’s youth. Trying too hard to find that voice discredits what Jimmy Eat World — as represented in the synchronized, yet not contrived and totally awesome chorus of “Electable (Give It Up)” — do so well: rock.
As a hard-rock fan, I desperately want Jimmy Eat World to succeed, partly because they write songs that often deal with that very theme: beating the odds and finding hope in desperation. But after nearly seven years, to churn out an album with three highlights and eight overblown odes (among them, “Here It Goes,” “Carry You,” and the forced empowerment of the title track) is disappointing. I’ve always rooted for the band, but now I wonder how much of that had to do with nostalgia and sentimentality. We’re all growing up, and the music should follow.