A note from Jimmy Eat World singer Jim Adkins, released alongside the announcement of their new album ‘Surviving’, was an early indicator of the heaviness of the alt-rock stalwarts’ tenth full-length.
“I was a passenger in my own body for 36 years and never realised it,” Adkins wrote, confronting a history of self-doubt and depression, explaining how writing the album helped him to process his past and tackle that lingering voice inside his head. “I didn’t know it because I was letting a voice inside my head tell me all sorts of lies to continue life at the minimum. As I grew older that minimum got lower… and then lower.”
As a result, ‘Surviving’ feels like an album that’s making up for lost time, and, as Adkins puts it, “building a new foundation from scratch”.
Musically, this torching of a former self is somewhat muted – the album still leans on the same guitar-driven, punk-leaning crutches as the band have done across their 25-year career. Lyrically though, it serves as a pretty all-encompassing exorcism, as Adkins opens the album on its title track by singing: “Don’t hide your face, what you were before / Doesn’t have to be you any more.”
Though there isn’t much musical deviation from the band’s past output, ‘Surviving’ sees the drums hitting harder, and the guitars packing a greater punch, audibly backing up these lyrics of hope and rebirth in their own way, digging as deep as Adkins himself is. “Going to stand this ground, going say it loud,” he continues on the title track, sounding brilliantly defiant, before laying out the album’s mantra: “Never define yourself by choices others make.”
When the tempo drops on the one-two of ‘Delivery’ and ‘555’, these words have less weight – the album’s message is hammered home most convincingly when backed by a crunching melee of guitars and drums – and though there is plenty of positive change across ‘Surviving’, it’s clear that their strengths still lie as a fists-in-the-air rock band; the monumental ‘One Mil’ shows this best.
“This album explores some of the different kinds of weights my ego tells me I have to carry,” Adkins concludes of the album’s motives.” They came up among a crop of bands intent on mining nostalgia and living relentlessly in the past, but the group’s bold, brave steps forward are welcome.