10 Years of ‘Chase This Light’

Jimmy Eat World has one of the best discographies of all time.

My affinity towards them, however, did not start in 2001, when they released Bleed American. It started in 2007, at the advent of LimeWire and an *illegal copy of Chase This Light found its way into my library of low-res Boxcar Racer and Motion City Soundtrack songs. Prior to that, I had known their single, “Pain” from Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 and vague memories of “The Middle” playing in my sister’s car on long drives to Magic Mountain. It just was never quite the right time for me to get into them. I had been distracted in inhaling as much new music as possible once I found out pop-punk existed.

Chase This Light immediately sounds decidedly different from any album they had released previously. The sheer massive, Butch Vig and Chris Testa-engineered sound created a much brighter sound than the moodier Futures, and the sound fit them perfectly. It is a shame that radio rock was a dying breed around that time. Songs like “Big Casino” and “Always Be” should have been the songs that propelled them into arena-headlining territory, but instead were only modestly popular.

It did something entirely different for Jimmy Eat World, though. It solidified them as one of the best bands to ever come out of the late-90’s and 2000’s emo scene. Whatever their contemporaries were doing, they were a step ahead. Not many bands write some of their best songs six albums in, but Jimmy Eat World did exactly that. It is a difficult task to keep in touch with fans as a band, and their audience, grows older. However, Jim Adkins has an aptitude for a heart-on-sleeve style of songwriting that has only gotten better over time.

Lyrically, the album is far from the bright peacock feather on it’s cover. Hidden behind it’s glossy, cheerful-production, “Big Casino” is told from the prospective of someone who regrets not taking the opportunities he had when he was younger, but daydreams of having the chance to do it again. Career-best, “Carry You”, is the ultimate ‘late night drive-teenage heartbreak’ song, culminating in a piercing chorus punchline, “Here’s to living in the moment, ’cause it passed.” The dark lyrical content with backdrop of lush, shimmering instrumentals is a common theme here, but somewhere along the line, the characters in these songs learn something. Starting at track 8, “Here It Goes”, to the closer, “Dizzy”, there is a realization that life is very finite and to take it as it comes. For all the darkness in Jim’s lyrics, it doesn’t strangle the songs, or the listener. When he sings that “time” is “just a number always counting down to a new start,” he is saying that you should not wait to be healed, or be happy by an external force. There are not always answers, or higher purpose. Some things will always be a little out of reach, and that is okay.

Ten years later, the themes and lessons learned from Chase This Light ring truer than ever. I was in 7th grade when it was released, too young to even guess what adulthood would bring me. Looking back, though, Jim’s lyrics retroactively apply to where I did end up. In “Always Be,” he sings, “I was just a boy like every other. I thought I was something fierce. I thought I was ten-times smarter.” Now, at 23, it is obvious I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what it took to make a relationship work, or how to prosper in situations where I am uncomfortable. These are things I am still learning, and that is exciting and visceral, not staggering. There are few albums that engage that topic with the grace that Light has.

Being young and discovering what kind of music you like is one of the most exciting parts of growing up. I constantly am looking for new albums and bands to listen to week by week. This year alone has seen the release of many great albums. Paramore’s stellar, After Laughter was released back in May. Bleacher’s Gone Now, Brand New’s Science Fiction, and Kendrick Lamar’s Damn have all become top tier albums, but the feeling of discovering a new sound, or band has changed. It has not lessened, or disappeared, but I talk about music differently now. I think about music differently now. It is hard to imagine an album hitting me the same way Jimmy Eat World’s albums do. I have to think that is because anything I listen to now is predicated on bands, or artists like them, or Green Day, or Kanye, or any that found there way to me first.

I have also grown up with Jimmy Eat World. Backtracking from Light, it took me a number of tries to truly click with ‘99’s, Clarity, but I now see how it was the beginning of their string of great albums. Bleed American and Futures are the “lightning struck twice” albums that both could have their own blog posts about how much they mean to me. Following Light, is 2010’s terrific, Invented, was an album I hold very close to my heart and represents some of my favorite times in the back-half of high school. In 2013, Damage was a blistering reality check on my first year of college, and last year’s Integrity Blues seemed to be the right album at the right time as I was (at the time) unknowingly about to launch into my greatest adventure yet with a girl that I love infinitely and move away from my hometown, throwing myself into the unknown. All of these experiences are ones that were happening concurrently with the band, and Chase This Light still feels like the summation of all these milestones, but also the ones that have yet to come. It is a lesson learned, and a mistake not yet made.

I had a discussion about “fall music” recently, and I immediately thought not only of Chase This Light as one of my quintessential fall albums, but Jimmy Eat World is the perfect band for the season. Today, while riding my bike ride home, the air was cooler and I put on Chase This Light, 10 years later, and it was perfect.

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