Jimmy Eat World's eighth studio album, 2013's Damage, is a mature breakup album that still retains all of the band's youthful, sock-to-the-gut pop energy. Produced in Los Angeles by Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys), the album is a straightforward collection of immediately infectious rock that balances Jimmy Eat World's vital electric guitar sound with a deft use of acoustic guitars and keyboards. The album also builds nicely upon the power pop/dance-rock vibe of their 2010 release, Invented, with an even more focused, lyrical approach that helps make this one of the band's most cathartic and moving albums of its career. Despite their status as aging leaders of the emo-pop revolution of the 2000s, Jimmy Eat World have nonetheless charted their own path through genres, one that has less to do with flavor-of-the-moment trends and everything to do with writing incisive, poignant, endlessly melodic and ultimately transcendent rock tunes. Frontman Jim Adkins has a knack for lyrics that hit at the core of universal, emotional truths. With Damage, the truth Adkins is interested in is the way that long-term relationships go awry, especially, it seems, when they begin in a couple's youth but ultimately end well into adulthood. On "How'd You Have Me," he sings, "Yeah, we kept going on/Like two adult children engaged in separate play." He also cleverly gets at the idea that little things gnaw away at a partnership, such as on "Book of Love," where he sings, "I wasn't worried about the small things/Tried to bury what they might, or could have meant/And as far away as you'd ever been/You'd still love me." This notion that our feelings about love as adults often conflict with the storybook notions we buy into in our youth is central to the themes of Damage. On the title track, Adkins admits, "I want someone who lives up to the grandeur in my head/And you don't do much to sell me." But just as the music on Damage is a sophisticated, fully realized version of the urgent, rambunctious rock Jimmy Eat World played early their career, the lyrics are more sophisticated as well. Adkins isn't culling these songs from his angst-ridden teenage diary, but from his now clear-eyed, grown-up perspective. As he sings on Damage, "Are we too damaged now to possibly connect?/To honestly connect?" For the couple in question, the answer is uncertain, but for Jimmy Eat World's audience, the answer is that they should immediately connect with Damage.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar