It is often quite interesting to look into an hourglass of a band in the past, and wonder where their heads were to have created such a collection of songs. Jimmy Eat World just came off their sophomore album which made a tiny pretty damn inconsequential splash in the music world. It was a big step up from their pretty much unknown debut self-titled album which is out of print and rather mediocre for what it is. So Jimmy Eat World, in this tough musical world, was at it a third time. In some ways, this was their last hurrah. If it failed, they may linger in obscurity for a while longer (or just break up and become one of those critically acclaimed though never successful bands). So a bigger studio budget comes along, as an act of good faith, and Clarity surfaces from the rubble.
In hindsight, Clarity is almost purely emo rock. It may not have been the desire, but there are clear-cut influences from The Get Up Kids, Saves the Day, and the Promise Ring. The group fit right into that mold, nicely crafted soft-rock with a jagged edge. The clear undeniable winner is, dare I say objectively, Lucky Denver Mint. It’s soaring chorus shines and gleams and the rhythmic pulsing of the drums makes it hypnotic, alongside the soft-mannered vocal approach of front man Jim Atkins. It’s a splendid success. The title track, Clarity, is also gorgeous in its own merit, and worthy of a mention.
Unfortunately, beyond this, the album floats by on some contemporary and immediate peers styles. There is some Get Up Kids frenzy in Your New Aesthetic. There are some sprawling naturalistic and moody tones in Just Watch the Fireworks pulled right from the pen of the Promise Ring. Blisteris an upbeat number, unfortunately directly correlated to Jawbreaker’s entire career.
Perhaps this is a bit unfair. Every band has SOME kind of musical influences, unless they were locked in a room and forced to learn an instrument without any interaction. But Jimmy Eat World never quite come into their own, and though Clarity is a competent record featuring a variety of emo-tinged hooks, it does nothing to differentiate itself in the whole scheme of things. The group are grade-A pop masters, as they prove later on in their career as they continue to grow into their own (and crafting a series of some of the best albums in modern pop). Though for now, in 1999, the still young group tries to find its footing but pulling from a grab bag of previous efforts and trying to make something of it.