Jimmy Eat World’s previous effort, Invented was the first album I ever reviewed at this blog. Though it was an excellent record, I did point out that it was perhaps a little on the safe side. After all, the album was produced by Mark Trombino, who had helped shaped their signature sound through consecutive albums Static Prevails, Clarity, and Bleed American. So I was excited to hear that the band would be working with a new producer on Damage, Alain Johannes, believing that he would inject some much-needed freshness into their music.

How very wrong I was.

Even more so than Invented, Damage is a safe record. But unlike Invented, it’s one that lacks variety, and that is Damage’s fatal flaw. Not only is Jimmy Eat World not stretching here, they’re operating within a very narrow sonic template. This is an album of generic uptempo pop rock with a few ballads thrown in for good measure. There are no angry punk songs, no sweeping epics, and no odd experiments. There are few memorable choruses or guitar lines. This is just not a musically adventurous album.

But does make it a bad album? Well, no. Jimmy Eat World has been at this game for too long to record a bad album. Jim Adkins, Tom Linton, Rick Burch, and Zach Lind are consummate professionals. They know how to write solid songs, and they would never have let Damage out of the studio if it had sounded terrible. The record does have a handful of really great tracks: “Appreciation”, “Lean”, and “I Will Steal You Back” can all stand with the band’s best work with their appealing, crunchy guitar parts and strong choruses.

However, the remainder of the album just isn’t memorable. I struggle to recall what any of it sounds like, even after multiple spins. I can’t even remember any of the lyrics, but I’m pretty sure it’s all standard heartbreak/break-up stuff. The songs on Damage aren’t bad – in fact, they’re perfectly decent – but they’re not music that I feel compelled to listen to again and again. They’re mildly enjoyable, inoffensive pop rock, perfect as the backing tracks for whatever teen drama the kids are watching these days.

Overall, this is probably Jimmy Eat World’s worst effort to date, but that doesn’t make it a bad album. It’s just not a particularly good one, and it’s disappointing to hear the band playing it so safe. I doubt this album will damage Jimmy Eat World’s reputation (pun intended), but they had better try something a little more daring on their next record.

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