Jimmy Eat World : Portsmouth Pyramids

Stuck between two posts, not quite convincing alternative heroes or globe-straddling stars...

They look nice and clean-cut, but [a]Jimmy Eat World[/a] can sure stir up an argument. For the benefit of anyone playing catch-up, we included them in our emo issue back in January, and the arbiters of word-of-mouth punk thrills didn’t like it. If you were hoping tonight might clear up the are-they, aren’t-they dilemma once and for all, think again.

To the casual glance, these Arizona natives, hunched double over their guitars and clouded in perspiration, are the epitome of punk ethics. They recorded their last, breakthrough album with their own money after being dropped by a major. They’ve slogged around the world’s toilet circuit. Hell, [a]Jimmy Eat World[/a] have paid every due imaginable.

Such credentials, though, don’t stop them indulging tonight in a mid-set lull, where they gently rough up rock when they should be throttling it within an inch of its life. Where others are angular, [a]Jimmy Eat World[/a] are too often rounded and polished. ‘If You Don’t, Don’t’ borders on schmaltz, frontman Jim Adkins singing “[I]We once walked out on the beach/And once I almost touched your hand[/I]” so wetly, even Morrissey would probably tell him to toughen up.

It’s when they come on like Blink 182’s slick, sensitive, poetry-writing big brothers – exactly what the pious punkas hate – that [a]Jimmy Eat World[/a] really matter. So, still making with the lyrical puppy-dog eyes, they end in furious style. ‘The Authority Song’ and forthcoming single ‘Sweetness’ balance their bubblegum edge with real emotional bite, wrapping tales of washed-out relationships in lithe harmonies and needling guitars. And, while they might still be uncannily professional, the monstrously catchy thrashes ‘Salt Sweat Sugar’ (tonight introduced by its pre-September 11th name ‘Bleed America’) and ‘The Middle’ are as much about bruised-knuckle dynamics as bleeding hearts.

Still dividing opinion, at the moment both sceptics and believers have a point. They’re stuck between two posts, not quite convincing alternative heroes, or globe-straddling stars. But until [a]Jimmy Eat World[/a] make up their minds, you might as well keep yours open.

Jim Alexander