Clarity (Jimmy Eat World album)
|Studio album by|
|Released||February 23, 1999|
|Studio||Sound City and Clear Lake Audio (Los Angeles)|
|Jimmy Eat World chronology|
|Singles from Clarity|
Clarity is the third studio album by American rock band Jimmy Eat World, released on February 23, 1999, by Capitol Records. Overlooked upon its release, Clarity has since amassed cult status and critical acclaim, and has been lauded as one of the best emo records of all time. Praise centered on its dynamic instrumentation, as well as the heartfelt delivery of singer-guitarist-lyricist Jim Adkins. Various music critics have credited the album for serving as a huge influence on later emo music.
Composition and lyrics
During breaks in touring in support of Static Prevails, Adkins worked at an art store. While working at this store, "Table for Glasses" came about. Adkins learned about shows that featured art pieces from local artists. Adkins was waiting for a friend's piece to begin when he spotted a girl clearing the area with the end of her dress. The girl walked towards "a candle lit table that had already been set up. She just sat there picking out the dirt from her dress", recalls Adkins. "Table for Glasses" was one of a few songs that was intended for "a side project of quiet songs". The project never got beyond jamming, and thus the songs were considered for Clarity. "Lucky Denver Mint" was inspired by a night out in Las Vegas Adkins had with a friend. Adkins was too young to consume alcohol and instead gambled, eventually spending all of his money. As a result, Adkins spent the remainder of the night "walking around feeling lost."
"Your New Aesthetic" was originally a "very mellow" song, but was turned into "a more aggressive, dark rock song", as Lind notes. This version was named "Skeleton" as the guitar sections between the verses "reminded us of horror film music". It featured different lyrics but Adkins thought he could improve upon them and changed the lyrics from the mellow version.
– Jim Adkins, on the recording sessions for Clarity, 2009
On recording "Table for Glasses", Adkins said the band learned "if you aren't doing a lot, it doesn't take a lot to get a big dynamic impact". Adkins noted the cello was "a good example of that". Susie Katayama provided Adkins assistance in writing and arranging the string parts for some of the songs. The band recorded two different drum sets on "Lucky Denver Mint", a first for the band. They had liked the effect, and as a result, used two sets on "Ten" and "Goodbye Sky Harbor". The album was recorded in late 1998 to early 1999 at Sound City and Clear Lake Audio, both in North Hollywood, with the tracks' mixing occurring at One on One in Los Angeles and Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood.
Clarity marks the start of Jim Adkins - as opposed to Tom Linton - providing lead vocals. With the exception of the song "Blister" and "Your New Aesthetic," Tom from this point on only provided backing vocals on various tracks until 2010's "Action Needs an Audience" off their album Invented.
Adkins revealed that despite the fact the album was "complete", it had no immediate release date. The group's A&R guy suggested an EP with a few more songs. Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake, who ran the label Fueled by Ramen, was contacted and supported the idea. The Jimmy Eat World EP was released by Fueled by Ramen on December 14, 1998 and featured two songs from Clarity: "Lucky Denver Mint" and "For Me This Is Heaven".[nb 1] Los Angeles-based radio station KROQ picked up on "Lucky Denver Mint", which resulted in a big interest in the song that gained it a place in the Drew Barrymore film Never Been Kissed. After this, the band was given a release date for the album. Adkins had a "strong suspicion" that the production staff was purposely "keeping from us that the label had no intention of releasing Clarity", prior to the airplay from KROQ. Adkins said that major labels were good at selling large sums of albums but did not have the "infrastructure to develop a band like us".
Clarity was released by Capitol Records on February 23, 1999.[nb 2] However, despite critical praise and promotion of "Lucky Denver Mint" in the film Never Been Kissed, Clarity was commercially unsuccessful in a musical climate dominated by teen pop, and the band was dropped from Capitol Records the following year.
After being dropped by Capitol, the band used this time to undertake extensive touring which allowed them to self-fund recording sessions for their eventual mainstream breakthrough, Bleed American (2001).
Along with Static Prevails (1996), the album was re-released on May 15, 2007. The reissue included "Christmas Card" and a studio demo of "Sweetness" as bonus tracks. Two years later, the band released Clarity Live (2009), recorded during its commemorative tenth anniversary tour.
The 2009 vinyl re-release package included the two new bonus tracks as well as a Clarity 2009 tour T-shirt. The 16 pictures used on the album's cover were shot by Paul Drake, Crissy Piper and J Gnewikow. For the 2009 re-issue, all 16 images appear on the front of the record. Art company The Uprising were hired to re-work the art for the 2009 release, using the original images, saying, "...we were brought on to reconstruct and reinterpret the original artwork. We wanted to stay true to the original, but give it a slightly more sophisticated and updated look & feel. These reconstructions are always a little tricky because you rarely get all of the original art assets you need, but this turned out fantastic. And the actual prints look amazing!".
Clarity x 10 Tour
The 2009 U.S. Clarity x 10 Tour, celebrating the 10th anniversary of Clarity, was announced in November 2008 and went across 10 dates in 10 different states. The tour opened on February 23rd, 2009, at Terminal 5 in New York, with shows on February 24th in Washington, D.C., February 25th in Trocadero Theater in Philadelphia, February 26th at the House of Blues in Boston, February 28th at the Metro in Chicago, March 2nd at the Ogden Theater in Denver, March 4th at The Fillmore in San Francisco, March 5th at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, and March 6th at San Diego's House of Blues, before finally ending in the band's home state of Arizona on March 7th at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Support for the tour came from No Knife and Reuben's Accomplice. The band, who had been extensively rehearsing in-studio, performed a rehearsal live over the internet on February 12th, 2009. The band also been used the social network Twitter to update and share photos and other material from the studio. The band released Clarity Live - a digital-only release of the Clarity x 10 tour's finale, recorded in Tempe - on April 7, 2009.
Reception and legacy
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Despite being largely overlooked upon its release, the album's critical stature has grown in time. A contemporaneous review of Clarity by Pitchfork was dismissive of the album. In retrospect, the album is now viewed as a "masterpiece", a "landmark album of the 1990s", and "the Led Zeppelin IV of emo rock". In 2008, Spin magazine polled members of seventeen modern-day bands, all of whom cited Jim Adkins’ writing and performance on the record as a primary influence. Similarly, Manchester Orchestra bassist Jonathan Corley, in an interview with Rip it Up magazine, said that Clarity was one of his all-time favourite records and one that "changed the way I look at music." Preceding the band's tenth anniversary tour of the album, Pete Cottell of the Phoenix New Times wrote, "What's truly admirable about the album is that it moves in so many different directions without getting lost on its journey. There's a tirade against shameless conformity ("Your New Aesthetic"), a herky-jerky, post-punk Police homage ("Believe in What You Want"), and a shimmering power ballad ("For Me This Is Heaven"). While ("Goodbye Sky Harbor") spills over with layered harmonies, chiming guitar passages, and 808 spurt. Unlike the 12 other tracks on Clarity, it's an almost impossible undertaking upon first listen. Once you've made it to the 13-minute mark, however, you'll never hit the skip button again." Cottell also stated "I intently listened to each of the 13 tracks, fearing I would be let down by yet another alt-rock album that had little to offer besides an unrepentantly catchy single sandwiched between layers of useless chaff. Ten years later, its safe to say that I've given up. Clarity is perfect." Leor Galil of the Bostonist, noted that, "The album has been hailed as a cult and indie classic, and is one of a few go-to records that cemented an aural aesthetic known as emo, and is a genuinely deft and moving piece of music from start to finish. No wonder a proposal for Continuum's 33⅓ book series about Clarity is in the running for potential-future publication." Writing in 2003, Andy Greenwald called it "one of the most fiercely beloved rock 'n' roll records of the last decade. It is name-checked by every single contemporary emo band as their favorite album, as a mind-bending milemarker that proved that punk rock could be tuneful, emotional, wide-ranging, and ambitious." William Goodman of Spin described it as a "benchmark emo and pop-punk classic."
Upon its re-issue in 2007, Blender magazine awarded a 4.5 star rating and noted that it was, "1999's masterful Clarity that established a foundation for 21st century emo. Dozens of weepy bottom-feeders have tried to write mid-20s angst anthems better than the soaring "Lucky Denver Mint" or the delicately heartbroken "Just Watch The Fireworks"– but few have succeeded." AllMusic's Mark Vanderhoff stated "Clarity mixes introspective balladry with power-chord punk rock, elements of chamber pop, and subtle doses of electronica to create a remarkably unique album". Tim Nelson of the BBC was praiseworthy in his 2007 review of the remastering. "The band and Trombino deserve credit for blending heartfelt, yearning vocals and rock dynamics with adventurous production and unique instrumentation" Alternative Press included the album in their "10 Classic Albums of 1999" feature. Scott Heisel wrote, "Like Weezer's Pinkerton before it, the album has gone on to serve as the birthplace of emo's third wave. The sixteen-minute closing track "Goodbye Sky Harbor", with its organic breakdown/electronic build up is often imitated but never duplicated. Proving its far better to test your own limits than rely on the parameters of others – which is the exact reason why Clarity resonates with tens of thousands of people, a decade later". Nate Chinen, writing for The New York Times, accounted that "Clarity was a pivotal album for Jimmy Eat World, the first to feature Jim Adkins on lead vocals instead of Mr. Linton and the last to reflect the heart-on-sleeve values of emocore more than the hard gleam of pop-punk. The songs convey acute self-awareness along with flashes of grace and insolence: the album is a pitch-perfect teenage plaint." Kerrang! magazine awarded the album five K's, which indicates "classic", and also labelled the album as the band's "Essential Purchase" in an article years later, stating: "Glorious is perhaps the best word to capture the essence of Clarity. Overflowing with flawless melodies backed up not only by magnificent musicianship but a ton of heart, this is the album that renders the label 'emo' redundant. Every note and syllable resonates with the kind of heartfelt emotion we'd like to think is poured into everything we listen to".
Harry Guerin of RTÉ Entertainment gave the album a full five star rating in his review. He described the album as a, "dense, beautiful collection which sees them bring in orchestras, drum loops and programming and find space for killer choruses, ballads and left field forays. The shortest song is under three minutes, the longest over 16 and the more you listen to all of them the more you'll wonder why this masterpiece wasn't massive" Record Collector was also highly favourable. Eleanor Goodman awarded four out of five stars in her review and commented, "though the multicoloured cover of 1999’s Clarity became familiar in music shops, it's combination of melancholy, introspective pop with faster punk rock broke the band in the US". Sputnikmusic staff reviewer Andrew Hartwig rated the album with a "Superb" 4.5 out of 5 rating. He praised the musicianship of the band and stated that "Musically, the band are excellent. The drumming is sophisticated and original and the use of two guitars is a great addition to the band. The aforementioned range of added instruments adds immensely to the arrangements of the songs". He went on to summarize, "Clarity is an album full of sensible pop songs, replay value and a diverse range of instruments and sounds. Truly one of the best albums of the 90s". Charles Merwin of Stylus Magazine gave the album an "A" grade and called it a "minor masterpiece — a product of its time and as important to modern emo as Weezer's Pinkerton".
|1.||"Table for Glasses"||4:22|
|2.||"Lucky Denver Mint"||3:50|
|3.||"Your New Aesthetic"||2:50|
|4.||"Believe in What You Want"||3:08|
|9.||"Just Watch the Fireworks"||7:03|
|10.||"For Me This Is Heaven"||4:04|
|13.||"Goodbye Sky Harbor"||16:13|
- Bonus tracks
|2007 reissue bonus tracks|
|15.||"Sweetness" (studio demo)||3:39|
Chris Lord-Alge remixed both "Lucky Denver Mint" and "Blister". His mix of "Lucky Denver Mint" appeared on the "Lucky Denver Mint" promotional CD and the soundtrack to the film Never Been Kissed. His mix of "Blister" appeared on the "Blister" CD maxi single.
Appearance in other media
The line "It's to Jimmy Eat World and those nights in my car when the 'first star you see may not be a star.' I'm not your star -- isn't that what you said what you thought the song meant?" from Something Corporate's 2003 song "Konstantine" is a direct reference to lyrics from the song "For Me This is Heaven."
On The Wonder Years track "Solo & Chewy: Holdin' It Down" off of their 2008 EP titled Won't Be Pathetic Forever, they make reference to both the album Clarity and specifically the song "Goodbye Sky Harbor" with the line "Arizona's airport is called Sky Harbor. I wonder if that's what the last song on Clarity's about?"
British band Moose Blood reference the album, including an allusion to the song "A Sunday" in their song "Bukowski", with the lyrics "I'll introduce you to Clarity, teach you the words to The Sound of Settling, and make you watch High Fidelity on a Sunday, maybe one day."
Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.
- Jimmy Eat World
- Jim Adkins – lead vocals, guitars, piano, keys, string arrangement, lyrics, art direction, backing vocals on "Blister"
- Rick Burch – bass guitar
- Zach Lind – drums, percussion, vibes, bells, chimes, programming
- Tom Linton – guitars, backing vocals, lyrics, lead vocals on "Blister"
- Additional musicians
- Joel Derouin – violin
- Suzie Katayama – cello, string arrangement
- Mark Trombino – minimoog, sequencing, additional percussion, programming
- Dean Fisher – engineering assistant
- Brian Gardner – mastering
- Nick Raskulinecz – engineering assistant
- Ron Rivera – engineering assistant
- Justin Smith – engineering assistant
- Mark Trombino – production, engineering, mixing
- U.S. Fueled by Ramen FBR020
- U.S. Capitol CDP 7243 8 55950 2 8
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- McMahon, ed. 2015, p. 19
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- Sharpe-Young 2005, p. 182
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- Greenwald, pp. 103–104.
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- Jimmy Eat World - 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Clarity Vinyl Reissue Archived 2009-04-08 at the Wayback Machine The Uprising, January 22, 2009
- chrissypiper Archived 2009-02-28 at the Wayback Machine Chrissy Piper, Clarity photographer, February 2009
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- Clarity (CD). Jimmy Eat World. Capitol Records. 1999.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Clarity liner notes. Capitol Records. 1999.