Review this album
Oct 26, 2013In interviews lately, they described this as an “adult breakup album”, and admittedly this got me a little hesitant at first. Mainly because I was afraid JEW (best band acronym ever) would basically become complacent in their themes & make something that's lyrically cliché, phoned-in & not worth analyzing. Fortunately though, for the most part, that didn't happen here. I'll stand byIn interviews lately, they described this as an “adult breakup album”, and admittedly this got me a little hesitant at first. Mainly because I was afraid JEW (best band acronym ever) would basically become complacent in their themes & make something that's lyrically cliché, phoned-in & not worth analyzing. Fortunately though, for the most part, that didn't happen here. I'll stand by Bleed American as my favorite album from them, but one interesting thing about Damage that puts it slightly above other JEW albums to me is its maturity. Of course they've never been downright whiny in their breakup songs, but this seems to perfectly fit what the band described it as. At nearly no point here does the crumbling & destroyed relationship being detailed throughout feel like it's between people not old enough to drink. It's what you'd hope a breakup album by a band in their mid-late 30's would sound like; more like a divorce than a schoolyard split.
The main indicator of this is how realistically the “characters” here are portrayed. It avoids the common breakup songwriting error of making the ex sound like some cartoonishly evil supervillain, and instead actually details good & bad traits of each person, making the “story” easier to get compelled by and, for some, relate to. A perfect example is the title track, where the narrator points out that the girl is becoming less & less appealing to him, while at the same time admitting to being a bit self-centered & suggesting that the relationship end before things get too messy, which is the stage the aforementioned whiny breakup songs are generally written in. That kind of refreshing balance sums up the lyrical advantages of a good majority of this album perfectly.
Musically, while the band isn't exactly pushing new boundaries or experimenting all that much, this is an album where they really don't need to, since the lyrics stay the main focus. However, as usual for JEW there's an abundance of catchy vocal hooks & jangly guitar leads nicely paired with driving power chords. One notable musical moment is closer “You Were Good”, a beautifully stripped-down & almost lo-fi acoustic number that's a stark contrast to the huge 7+ minute epic closers of past albums like “Goodbye Sky Harbor,” “23” & “Dizzy”. Another is “Byebyelove”, which has the least amount of lyrics of any song here but is made extremely effective by the passionate vocal delivery & lengthy instrumental break that lets the emotions sink in a bit more.
However, to briefly go down the more bothersome moments, opening track “Appreciation,” which is otherwise a very good song, as the exact same chord progression in the verse as the chorus of Chase This Light opener “Big Casino”. As a guitarist I know there's only so many chords in the world, but that just seems like lazy songwriting to me. Also there are a few songs that just feel like they needed some lyrical changes. The biggest offender is “How'd You Have Me”, which has the same obnoxious I praised the rest of the album for staying away from. And a few others (particularly toward the middle of the track list) are just really wordy & don't contribute much to the album that another song doesn't do better. But still, those issues don't take away from the overall listen too much. Overall, Damage isn't my favorite album from JEW, but it's a welcome addition to their catalog that dishes out familiar themes from a different perspective.
Top 5 tracks: Byebyelove, Damage, Lean, I Will Steal You Back, You Were Good
Score: 78/100… Expand
Awards & Rankings
MagnetJul 17, 2013Jimmy Eat World has become a purveyor of modern rock that just so happens to have a noisier background that jerks like me won't let it live down. This permits recognition of well-penned, upbeat numbers like Appreciation" and "How'd You Have Me." [No. 100, p.55]
Kerrang!Jun 26, 2013Damage finds them rejuvenated. [8 Jun 2013, p.53]