It's not often that the world gets treated to a band like Jimmy Eat World. They've had the same four-piece lineup for over 25 years (and three of those four members for nearly 30), they've never gone more than a few years without a new album, never went on hiatus, and they've remained a consistently strong band -- both live and in the studio -- whether the radio and MTV and the music press was paying attention or not. They've released at least two stone cold classics -- 1999's cultishly loved Clarity and their 2001 mainstream breakthrough Bleed American -- but ask a true believer, and that number rises to five or six. Even if you've never heard of the band at all, you've probably heard "The Middle" (and maybe "Sweetness"), and they've had a handful of other hits in the alternative world since. They’ve had their weaker moments, as almost all long-running bands do, but those are far outweighed by the great ones, and these past few years have been some of their best -- this year’s “Something Loud” single is up to par with their most-loved classics.
In certain circles, "The Middle" still overshadows the 100+ other songs Jimmy Eat World have released over the past quarter-century and counting, but they've got so many great deeper cuts that are just as good -- if not better than -- their biggest hits. From lesser-known album tracks to B-sides and rarities, from the songs that delight the diehards in the crowd to the ones that haven't even been played live in years, there are so many amazing Jimmy Eat World songs that'll probably never get airplay or music videos or end up on a greatest hits, and I've decided to celebrate their more overlooked material with a list of the 10 best Jimmy Eat World deep cuts. For the purposes of this list, the song couldn't have been released as a single, and I decided to not include anything from Clarity or Bleed American. Those albums are so cemented in the emo canon at this point that it doesn't really feel like any of those songs count as "deep cuts." I also kept it to no more than two songs per album, because I wanted to represent as wide a range as possible. Even still, some of their albums aren't represented at all on this list, but 10 is a very small number and this list filled up fast.
I'm sure that any other Jimmy Eat World fan reading this list would pick different songs in a different order, and with so many great songs to choose from, I made some very tough calls to narrow this down to 10 and might make different calls if I do this again in a few years. And I know the list will start some arguments, but really the reason I wanted to do this was just as a way of celebrating a less-celebrated side of one of the greatest rock bands of the past 25 years. With all those caveats aside, read on for my list...
10. "Criminal Energy" (from Surviving, 2019)
After putting out 2016's career-rejuvenating Integrity Blues, Jimmy Eat World kept the momentum going on 2019's almost-as-good Surviving, which shared producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (M83, Paramore). It was a little more conventional for Jimmy Eat World's standards than its predecessor -- save for outliers like the electronic pop single "555" and the eerie closer "Congratulations" -- but conventional isn't necessarily a bad thing, and Jimmy Eat World loaded Surviving with songs that sound great next to their biggest hits. One of those is "Criminal Energy," a power pop/punk fusion powered by a relentless chug that finds the middle ground between Bleed American's title track and Queens of the Stone Age. Few bands pair sneakily heavy guitars and soaring, catchy pop hooks like Jimmy Eat World, and "Criminal Energy" does it as well as their radio songs.
9. "Firefight" (from Chase This Light, 2007)
After Jimmy Eat World's darker, heavier Futures, they returned to the big, bright guitar rock that defined Bleed American on 2007's underrated Chase This Light. The album's admittedly a little top-heavy, opening with one of the best and most open-hearted rock songs Jimmy Eat World's ever written, "Big Casino," followed immediately by the album's other two very catchy singles, "Let It Happen" and "Always Be," but you can't give up on the album even as it plateaus a bit in the middle, because it saves one of its very best songs for second to last, "Firefight." It's not just the best deep cut on Chase This Light; it's the second best song on the album after "Big Casino," and one of Jimmy Eat World's most instantly-satisfying songs ever. "Firefight" finds Jimmy Eat World going all in on big anthemic hooks and stadium-sized quiet-loud dynamics, but in that pensive way that only Jimmy Eat World can do.
8. "Thinking, That's All" (from Static Prevails, 1996)
Jimmy Eat World wrote one of the absolute best second wave emo albums with 1999's Clarity, but even on that album, they were operating on a more ambitious and expansive level than just about all of their peers. If you want to hear Jimmy Eat World sounding like a raw basement-dwelling emo band, the only place you'll find it is on Static Prevails (and their splits from that era), and Static Prevails' hardest, scrappiest, most out-of-tune song is opener "Thinking, That's All." On this album, lead vocals were split between Tim Linton (who was the lead vocalist on Jimmy Eat World's 1994 skate punk debut) and Jim Adkins (who took over as lead vocalist on Clarity), and on "Thinking, That's All," they split vocal duties almost evenly. Jim hadn't yet developed the pristine voice that he'd become best known for, as evidenced by his scratchy, yelpy verses, and he nears screamo territory when he switches over to backing shrieks as Tom sings the chorus. The interlocking guitar riffs are just as clattering as Jim's screams; given the well-oiled machine Jimmy Eat World became for the past 20+ years, it's a thrill to hear them doing something so messy and chaotic.
7. "Through" (from Integrity Blues, 2016)
In a way, the entire Integrity Blues album feels like one of Jimmy Eat World's best deep cuts. It didn't have any big hits like the ones the band had in the early/mid 2000s, and it came well after the general public's interest in Jimmy Eat World had dwindled. It's an album for the diehards, and those who heard it are lucky; it's one of the band's very best albums, on par with the music they were putting out at the height of their success despite its relative obscurity. As far as its great deep cuts go, it was hard to pick one for this list -- do I go with the slow-burning, Clarity-esque "It Matters"? The sludge metal-infused "Pass the Baby"? So many songs could've made it, but I ended up going with a song that's way too overlooked for how instantly-satisfying it is, "Through." Even if you're only a casual Jimmy Eat World listener who appreciates "The Middle" and "Sweetness" in passing, "Through" could win you over. It's that kind of song; a fat-trimmed, super-catchy dose of emo power pop that could've ruled the airwaves in an alternate timeline.
6. "Kill" (from Futures, 2004)
Futures often gets considered the darker, weirder followup to Jimmy Eat World's big breakthrough, closer in spirit to Clarity than to Bleed American, and it largely is, but they still found moments for sweet, satisfying pop bliss, and one of those moments is "Kill." Jim Adkins sings of love and longing in a way that was wiser and more poetic than a lot of the younger, more bitter emo bands of the era, and the song's gravitational pull feels just as bittersweet as Jim's words.
5. "Roller Queen" (from Jimmy Eat World EP, 1998)
As legend has it, Capitol Records almost shelved Jimmy Eat World's now-classic Clarity and, in the process, they suggested the band release an EP, so Jimmy Eat World put out a self-titled EP with two Clarity songs, one Clarity demo, and two non-album tracks in 1998. (It was released on Fueled by Ramen, which was still a few years from becoming the label we all now know it as.) One of those non-album tracks was "Roller Queen," a song that's every bit as good as the material that did end up on Clarity. It's a nearly-seven-minute slow-burner, the kind of meditative, post-rocky emo song that Jimmy Eat World would do only a few other times in their career, and they do this kind of thing just as well as they do the three-minute crowdpleasers. It's the kind of song that totally engulfs you and puts you in a daze that lingers even after the song's final fade-out.
4. "Claire" (from Static Prevails, 1996)
Static Prevails is Jimmy Eat World as a raw, scrappy emo band, but it had hints of the more majestic music that they'd make later on, and the strongest of those hints was "Claire." It's slower and prettier than Static Prevails' two singles (the great "Rockstar" and "Call It In The Air"), and you can almost hear Jim Adkins realizing in real time how sweet his voice can sound. He still raises his voice to a shouty rasp here and there, but for the most part, "Claire" sounds like the earliest example of what Jimmy Eat World would achieve artistically with Clarity. Much of Static Prevails epitomizes mid '90s emo, but "Claire" sounds ahead of its time. It's a song that even today sounds shockingly fresh compared to just about every other song on the album.
3. "23" (from Futures, 2004)
Like the aforementioned "Roller Queen," the seven-minute Futures closer "23" proved Jimmy Eat World could be a damn good post-rock band if they wanted to be. The song's base is really nothing more than a few simple guitar chords, but Jimmy Eat World deliver the song with such suspense that it keeps you hypnotized for the entire lengthy runtime. Swelling strings enter, Jim lies down some longing, yearning prose, and eventually a searing guitar solo kicks in too. "23" is a song that's built to be a deep cut -- it made sense to send "Work" and "Pain" to the radio stations, but when you gave Futures the time it deserved, you were treated to this stunning odyssey as its final track.
2. "Disintegration" (from Stay On My Side Tonight EP, 2005)
It can't be a total coincidence that "Disintegration" shares its title with the most immersive Cure album, right? Even more so than "23," the opening track on Futures' followup EP Stay On My Side Tonight was a lengthy, eerie, atmospheric slow-burn that took at least a few cues from The Cure's 1989 masterpiece. It's a side of Jimmy Eat World that isn't shown enough, and it's never been better than on "Disintegration." Like "23," the guitars are somber and deceptively simple. The pounding, thunderous drums are the loudest thing in the mix, and they function more as a core melody than as a rhythm section. Jim's delivery is more haunting than ever; words slowly seep out of his mouth, gradually building to the shouted gang vocal refrain in the song's second half. For a comparison within the emo world, it felt like Jimmy Eat World's answer to Sunny Day Real Estate's How It Feels To Be Something On, an art rock sensory overload that mesmerizes on a far deeper level than your average emo song. "Disintegration" is not just one of Jimmy Eat World's best deep cuts, but one of their best songs, period, and it's a type of song that I've always wished they'd written more of. But being such an outlier in Jimmy Eat World's discography only makes it feel even more overwhelming.
1. "No Sensitivity" (from Jebediah & Jimmy Eat World split, 2000)
I didn't allow myself to count any songs from Bleed American or Clarity as deep cuts, but the best Jimmy Eat World deep cut is a song that could and really should have appeared on Bleed American, "No Sensitivity." The song was first released on their 2000 split with Jebediah, which also included an early version of Bleed American's "Cautioners," and "No Sensitivity" was later included as the B-side on the UK CD single for "The Middle," so they had to at least be considering it for inclusion on Bleed American. And I'm sure they had their reasons for leaving it off, but if there's a song that would've made the perfect Bleed American even better, it's this one. Bleed American's big hit "The Middle" benefitted from the popularity of pop punk in the early 2000s, even though the album overall had way too much range to be shoehorned into that genre, and the punchy, punky emo-pop of "No Sensitivity" could've been just as world-conquering with the right push. It's Jimmy Eat World at their most immediate, and when the chorus of "I'm taking my kisses back! (WHOA-OH!) I want my kisses back from you!" hits, it's exactly the kind of hook and sentiment that made emo resonate so strongly with teenagers. If a lesser band came up with this one in the early 2000s, it probably would've been pushed as their core single. Only a band as consistently great as Jimmy Eat World could've kept it as a B-side.
Jimmy Eat World -- 2022 Tour Dates
September 8 – Cleveland, OH – Rock Hall Live*
September 9 – Columbus, OH – KEMBA Live!*
September 10 – Pittsburgh, PA – Four Chord Music Festival
September 11 – Detroit, MI – Saint Andrew’s Hall*
September 13 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue*
September 14 – Kansas City, MO – Uptown Theater*
September 16 – St. Louis, MO – The Pageant*
September 17 - Chicago, IL - Metro (Riot Fest aftershow)*
September 18 – Chicago, IL – Riot Fest
September 20 – Richmond, VA – The National*
September 21 – Wantagh, NY – Mulcahy's Pub and Concert Hall*
September 23 – Sayreville, NJ – Starland Ballroom*
September 24 – Providence, RI – The Strand Theatre*
September 25 – New Haven, CT – Toad’s Place*
September 26 – Burlington, VT – Higher Ground*
September 28 – Albany, NY – Empire Live*
September 29 – Toronto, ON – History*
October 1 – Ocean City, MD – Oceans Calling
October 22 – Las Vegas, NV – When We Were Young
October 23 – Las Vegas, NV – When We Were Young
October 29 – Las Vegas, NV – When We Were Young
* - w/ Charly Bliss
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