Listen closely to The Blue Album. More closely. Look past the band's airtight musicianship, and ignore for the moment their offbeat lyrics and engaging hooks. There, right there. Hear that? That's the sound of Jim the Band splitting at the seams. It's a shame, because The Blue Album is generally more focused and less cluttered than the band's unwieldy 1998 debut, The Way We Are. But the record reveals a trio of talented artists with increasingly divergent stylistic agendas, straining whatever connective fibers held them together in the past. The writing credits are no longer shared, as they were on the first album. Now, instead of jumping from style to style within songs, each writer follows his own peculiar muse with little evident input from his bandmates. Guitarist Dave Werba's muse is the most easily identifiable: he's been listening to lots and lots of Phish records. And he's become a remarkably skilled imitator. "Wild Monkey" is a particularly giddy-making piece of hippie trippery with infectious, nonsensical chorus lyrics ("A wild monkey runs to the arms of grateful nuns who are happy as his son to caress the monkey's buns"). Meanwhile, keyboardist Frank Gattone plays earnestly and often gratingly with sappy synth-based pop. "Out of Love" seems like an attempt to reincarnate the Jackson Five, while "Run" is a swollen pop ballad a la R. Kelly. Bass man Barrett Schultz seems more influenced by the modern rock scene, drawing effectively from Beck ("Poplock") and Ben Folds Five ("Lockjaw"). Most of the album is effectively played and the whole thing holds together better than you might expect. But it's doubtful that the band took anyone by surprise when they announced their breakup less than a year after the album's release.
AllMusic Review by Evan Cater