In today's prefab pop idol marketplace, there must be more pre-teen would-be superstars than ever, all vying for that elusive major-label contract. Hell, they even have prime time TV shows about it! For the members of Jimmy Eat World, however, having released two major-label albums before hitting legal drinking age, the freedom from that same contract would put the Mesa, AZ, foursome on the path to its very finest work: 2001's Bleed American, Jimmy Eat World's fourth LP and first for DreamWorks Records, recorded on the band's own dime in the aftermath of being dropped from their previous label.
Jimmy Eat World's post-major-label stealth enabled them to record Bleed American (co-produced with Mark Trombino) completely free of distraction, which resulted in what many consider their most accomplished songcraft and focused performances yet. "I've heard the best ideas are the ones you think you shouldn't use at first," Adkins says. "You do your best work when you skirt your boundaries. If you like something you've written but you have issues with it, you're probably on the right track. With this record, I found it was more challenging to write concise pop songs than to get really progressive and abstract."
All of which is not to say that Jimmy Eat World had abandoned the energy or innovation of its previous works. First radio track "Bleed American," for example, launched the record with a furious melody, propelling a lyric of hard-won wisdom. "'Bleed American' isn't about any one thing," Adkins explains. "It's about a general dissatisfaction and a yearning for something more not necessarily something material but emotional. It describes a feeling that something's missing."
Elsewhere on Bleed American, songs like "Sweetness," "If You Don't, Don't" and "Your House" seem to harbor a romantic sensibility, though Adkins prefers not to specify. "I look at these songs more as moods than statements," he says. "However people choose to interpret them is fine." To be sure, the record's more experimental turns, like the somber "Get It Faster" or the expansive "Cautioners," leave as much room for the listener's own experiences and emotions as anything on Static Prevails or Clarity.