Jimmy Eat World return with their ninth album. The Arizonans have been together for 23 years and vocalist and guitarist Jim Adkins, guitarist Tom Linton, bassist Rick Burch, and drummer Zach Lind received a boost earlier this year when an ad to promote Apple Music featured Taylor Swift dancing to their 2001 hit, ‘The Middle’. The band’s sound alters with each album and the powerpop days of Bleed American are long in the past.
Integrity Blues suffers a false start when the insipid ‘You With Me’ fails to take off. ‘Sure And Certain’ is a Phil Collins album track and it isn’t until ‘Pass The Baby’, halfway through the album, that anything remotely interesting happens. The opening bass line and heavily treated drums have a vaguely retro, new romantic vibe. The lead guitar’s sparse lamentations add to the foreboding atmosphere. It’s a genuine highlight and, given what preceded it, an unexpected and welcome surprise even before it breaks down into a heavy Rage Against The Machine groove and a feedback crescendo. It’s the first noticeable instance of distortion on the guitars and sets up lead single ‘Get Right’ nicely. It’s a lighter version of classic Jimmy Eat World and is far closer in sound to britpop than emo.
This brief mid-album plateau is a temporary reprieve and ‘The End Is Beautiful’ is Snow Patrol-like. It makes ‘Chasing Cars’ sound like ‘Ace Of Spades’. The catchy riffing of ‘Through’ offers a brief respite but the title track and closer ‘Pol Roger’ somnambulate to a welcome conclusion.
After their back to basics excursion with Alain Johannes the band have chosen the slick tones of Justin Meldal-Johnsen for Integrity Blues. Already this year Meldal-Johnsen has produced generic sounding releases from M83 and School of Seven Bells, making this the third in a trilogy of chillingly bland albums. Though professionally executed, none of these would sound out of place in H&M. The personality has been squeezed out of them and none more so than on Integrity Blues where Jimmy Eat World struggle to be heard over the deafening banality of the boil washed guitars, stock beats, and Grey’s Anatomy melodies. When your band is mentioned is the same breath as Imagine Dragons and AWOLNATION, you should worry.