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14 Years Ago: Jimmy Eat World’s ‘Clarity’ Album Released

Jimmy Eat World Clarity
Capitol

It takes a mixture of pain, perseverance and prescience to produce a timeless emo album. Jimmy Eat World achieved this and more when it hit the studio with producer Mark Trombino to record what would become their definitive album, ‘Clarity.’

Released 14 years ago today, when bands were still judged on whether they could rack up physical sales in the millions, ‘Clarity’ was Jimmy Eat World’s second and final full-length for Capitol Records, which dropped the band soon after the album hit shelves.

“Capitol didn’t give a s— about us,” lead singer Jim Adkins said in a 2000 interview about the hands-off ‘Clarity’ recording process. He goes on to quip that their follow-up (and subsequent breakthrough hit, 2001’s ‘Bleed American’) would be as “disgustingly catchy and straight ahead” as ‘Clarity.’ Ironically, therein lies a key to ‘Clarity’’s staying power.

The album is infectious emo at its finest: a mixture of ballads and searing guitar-focused rockers, the lyrics a rallying cry for a band (or person) on the brink. It’s not difficult to hear Adkins’ gift for songwriting on ‘Clarity,’ and this is helped along by an eclectic mix of instrumentation — acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, bells, violins. The album also marks Adkins’ first full turn as Jimmy Eat World’s lead singer, and his wavering, cracking voice a unique instrument in and of itself.

The other key lies in how the tracks on ‘Clarity’ are sequenced; each nugget bleeds into the next, simulating one cohesive thought. Album opener ‘Table for Glasses’ ends with the lyric “lead my skeptic sight / to the table and the light”; seconds later, the listener is led into one of the ’90s most unforgettable drum lines, kicking off the album’s lone single, ‘Lucky Denver Mint’ (which found its way onto rock radio and the soundtrack for the Drew Barrymore rom-com ‘Never Been Kissed.’) It almost comes as a surprise when the album runs out of real estate.

Since its original street date, ‘Clarity’ has seen a 2007 re-release, which included bonus material (including a demo of the ‘Bleed American’ hit ‘The Sweetness’), and a 2009 front-to-back live edition. To this day, more so than any record except maybe Weezer’s initially panned but now indelibly popular ‘Pinkerton’ (1996), ‘Clarity’ plays like emo’s Rosetta Stone, its impassioned songs, pop melodies and hooky guitars a Holy Trinity for modern acts to follow.

Watch Jimmy Eat World’s Video for ‘Lucky Denver Mint’

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