July 2001 and Jimmy Eat World went full blown with their fourth album Bleed American. I bought it on the day of release as they were one of the few bands I’d seen and got really excited about in the last couple of years. The previous album 1999’s Clarity was widely regarded as a bit of a genre classic for what was then called Emo. See late 90’s emo and Emo today were not really the same thing. Clarity might have done more business if the label hadn’t fucked the band around quite as much as it did on Static Prevails (album number two and their first for Capitol Records). By this time they’d racked up an impressive amount of indie 7’s which wriggled them out of their Capitol contract by pulling together the non-album bind up compilation (imaginatively titled Singles) in 2000.
New label, bigger budget and a fire in their bellies, Bleed American has teeth not seen since Call It In The Air. The title track of the album has the urgent refrain “Salt, sweat, sugar on the asphalt, our hearts littering the topsoil” as a chorus. It’s emotive stuff. That sturm and drang riff punctuated by verses doing rounds again and again with the same couplets “I’m not alone ’cause the TV’s on yeah, I’m not crazy ’cause I take the right pills everyday” only with increasing urgency in their delivery.
Bleed American the album isn’t all pent up upset. There’s the John Mellencamp tribute Authority Song with it’s references to The Jesus and Mary Chain. Key lyric “The DJ never has it JMC Automatic”, I was a DJ. I always had it. The almost The Knack like The Middle which has gone down as one of the defining anthems of that era. It’s even been covered by none other than Taylor Swift. The heartbreaking Hear You Me, a song written as tribute to two fans who died in a car accident on their way home from a Jimmy Eat World and Weezer show a year previously and the unrequited lovelorn Get It Faster. All this and my other personal favourite from the album. The ode to the scene A Praise Chorus which is chock full of nods and links to other records. It’s such a great tune it still gives me goosebumps.
So here they were. Killer album. New deal. Ready to ride the wave into the big time. One of the first big bands of the 21st century. Their plans were somewhat messed with less than 2 months after the album release. With the events of tomorrows big anniversary unfolding on the world stage the words Bleed American were not what the USA wanted to see on billboards, sidebars and chart rundowns. The album was pulled from stores. Relatively swiftly it was repackaged as just Jimmy Eat World (their second self titled album after the 1994 debut). The Middle was postponed as a single until November that year. That album cover of sports trophies on display looked even more poignant and nostalgic with the album title removed.
They went on to a glittering career with 10 albums under their belts since the breakthrough. That bumpy start and the twists of fate that have steered them since 2001 have made for often interesting output. An understated and subtle band at times, a glorious racket at others. It turned out the Millennium Bug was a nonevent. I see this album as the last record from the before time. Before the 21st Century was kicked into action for real.