On the heels of their self-titled EP in late 1998, Jimmy Eat World released their breakthrough album Clarity in 1999 and took up the mantle of emo poster boys. Deftly produced by Mark Trombino and the band, Clarity mixes introspective balladry with power-chord punk rock, elements of chamber pop, and subtle doses of electronica to create a remarkably unique album. The only single to garner radio play, the hard-edged yet poppy "Lucky Denver Mint," was also featured on the soundtrack to the Drew Barrymore film Never Been Kissed, and while the album reached an audience that far surpassed Jimmy Eat World's previous efforts, it was by no means a commercial smash hit. The band's punk influences are evident on "Your New Aesthetic," which decries the commercialization of radio as effectively as any song since Elvis Costello's "Radio, Radio." The other songs are more personal and poignant. Using string ensembles, drum loops, chimes, piano, vibraphones, and tight vocal harmonies to create intricately layered songs, Clarity alternates between hypnotic and hard rock, often in the same song. The snarl of "Blister" and "Crush" are counterbalanced by the understated beauty of "Table for Glasses" and "On a Sunday." However, most of the tracks mix both ends of the emotional spectrum with dramatic effects. The sweeping "Goodbye Sky Harbor," which clocks in at an epic sixteen-minutes-and-eleven seconds, starts off as an up-tempo romp, but evolves into an expansive piece of dream pop that includes vocal loops, several layers of delicate electric guitars, bells, and a drum machine. Heartfelt, yearning vocals from Jim Adkins and Tom Linton tie the songs on Clarity together and set them apart from other post-grunge rock acts. Neither vocalist is afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, but both pull it off without sounding wimpy or overly forlorn. They are also versatile enough to belt out the more aggressive tunes. Trombino also deserves praise for helping to brilliantly balance excellent songwriting and traditional rock elements with adventurous production and unique instrumentation.
AllMusic Review by Mark Vanderhoff