It’s been 16 years since Jimmy Eat World released Static Prevails, one of the first emo albums issued by a major label, and nearly a decade since Bleed American proved the genre could be commercially successful. The guys are older now -- frontman Jim Adkins, although immortally baby-faced, is in his mid-thirties -- and the slick, poppy sound that Bleed American helped introduce has been adopted by nearly every emo band since. Most of those new bands are younger than Jimmy Eat World, and Invented marks the point where age officially becomes an issue for the genre forefathers.
The problem with Invented isn’t the band’s attempt to sound young. The problem is that these songs consciously reflect Jimmy Eat World’s age, and emo music doesn’t really support that kind of content. Bleed American, Futures, and Chase This Light were all anthemic records, filled with carpe diem platitudes that targeted a teenage audience, but Invented is older, wiser, and perhaps more midtempo than it needs to be. Whereas Chase This Light opened with a rousing rock song, “Big Casino,” whose protagonist becomes “a New Jersey success story” after ditching the small town that raised him, Adkins places himself on the other side of the equation at the beginning of Invented, taking a look at the 21st century kids who’ve come to take away his crown. “I’m more and more replaced by my friends each night/I can’t compete,” he sings, while acoustic guitars and strings bubble beneath him. Melodically, it’s still a gorgeous song, as are most of the ballads and casually paced rock songs on the album. But Invented, as tuneful as it may be, still plays an odd role in Jimmy Eat World’s discography, since it can’t quite figure out how to transcend a genre -- one that Jimmy Eat World helped invent, no less -- that exclusively caters to younger listeners.