One of the leading bands in emo before the tag was co-opted by and endless string of simpering, guyliner-heavy bands, Jimmy Eat World experienced their commercial breakthrough with 2002’s multi-platinum Bleed American. The band’s follow-up, 2004’s Futures, was a considerably darker, headier album, one that showed their admirable willingness to tackle more difficult material than many of their contemporaries. Unfortunately, the band’s more deliberate introspection cost them their strong pop sensibility, and the album didn’t continue their hot streak. Chase This Light, however, should go a long way toward rectifying that. The album doesn’t lose any of its predecessor’s more interesting lyrical themes: The twitchy, vaguely psychedelic “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues” is unlike anything they’ve ever written in that it actually maintains a menacing tone, while “Firefight” favorably recalls the outsized writing on their early albums. But Chase This Light is also a return to form for the band in terms of their ingratiating power-pop. Opener and lead single “Big Casino,” if not quite as immediate as “The Middle,” nonetheless includes a memorable guitar riff and explodes into a massive chorus. “Always Be” makes great use of both snaps and handclaps, and its melody holds up alongside the strongest tracks from The Shins’ Wincing the Night Away and Shout Out Louds’ Our Ill Wills. The album’s missteps, such as “Electable (Give It Up),” which sounds like an American Idiot knockoff in content and execution, are relatively minor and ultimately don’t impact the album’s overall momentum or tone. Though it doesn’t hurt that recent albums by so many other go-to pop bands have been a mixed bag (The New Pornographers’ excellent Challengers was surprisingly mellow, Hanson’s The Walk was marred by attempts at serious lyrics, and Fountains of Wayne’s Traffic and Weather was unbearably smug), it isn’t a stretch to say that Chase This Light is one of the year’s best power-pop records.
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