How Jimmy Eat World Made the Most of Second Chances With ‘Bleed American’
Following the release of their 1999 album Clarity, Jimmy Eat World had to have been exasperated after delivering what has since come to be known as a punk-pop masterpiece, only to be dropped by an allegedly unsupportive Capitol Records during the album's touring cycle. Undaunted, the Mesa, Ariz., outfit forged ahead and put together what would turn into their mainstream breakthrough, Bleed American, which came out July 24, 2001.
Led by the hard-charging title track, the buzz on the album started a minor bidding war that Dreamworks eventually won, but not before things took an ironic twist when Capitol threw their hat into the ring.
“They actually wanted to sign us again after dropping us, which was kinda bizarre, but it's just kinda funny,” frontman Jim Adkins told Crud Magazine shortly after the album’s release. “They just weren't a good label and we're happy to be on a good label now."
Falling squarely into the emo arena, even though Bleed American had many rock and roll moments, the group benefited from the surprisingly successful reemergence that spring of Weezer, who were getting major radio and video play with the hits “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun.” Fans in 2001 who had outgrown the boy bands and tween pop and were looking for something that wasn’t aggro as Creed found a kind of balance waiting for them in emo and any artist associated with it, Jimmy Eat World being near the top of the list.
The record marked the first album sung entirely by Adkins, who started off as the band’s guitarist and backing vocalist while fellow guitarist Tom Linton handled singing duties. Over time, Linton handed more and more leads to Adkins until the latter eventually handled all of them. Adkins also enlisted the assistance of singers Davey von Bohlen (The Promise Ring) for “The Authority Song” and Rachel Haden (That Dog) for five of the 11 tracks on Bleed American.
Along with the title track, “Get It Faster” provided enough heaviness for those who like their guitars loud, while tracks like “A Praise Chorus,” “Sweetness” and “The Authority Song” oozed catchy seductiveness. In total, four singles from the album were widely played, none more so than “The Middle,” which came out exactly when the band needed it.
The attacks of Sept. 11 had stopped any momentum of both the song and the album. A long list of songs were sent by Clear Channel to their 1,000-plus stations with the suggestion they be pulled from playlists due to questionable lyrics. Even though Jimmy Eat World weren’t on the hit list at all, a good amount of radio programmers took it upon themselves to cease spinning anything from Bleed American, somewhat understandable given the connotations that could be taken from the album title. Quickly, the album was re-branded as a self-titled release, which, contrary to popular belief, was a change approved by the band.
“The short answer is that it was our decision,” Adkins told Consequence of Sound a few years ago. “We worked too hard on the material to keep people from ostensibly not being able to listen to it.”
The track “Bleed American” was re-titled “Salt Sweat Sugar” after its chorus, but it was “The Middle” dropping in the first week of November that was responsible for reigniting interest in the record. Its hopeful lyrics resonated for anyone who had a pulse, and the accompanying video, which reversed the nightmare of showing up to school naked, received a ton of play on both alt-rock radio and MTV. From that point, the doors opened wide for audiences to be swept up into the irresistible hooks and feel of the album.
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