Only after several years can you begin to notice the influence a record has had. Some may say it takes foresight to know whether a record will become legendary, but there’s no way to really predict something like that. For this Retro Review project, we’re reviewing records that are a minimum of 10 years old – and with Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American celebrating its 10th birthday on July 18, I can’t think of a better place to start.
The “Class of ’01,” not to infringe on AltPress’ phrase or anything, is very impressive. Bleed American, however, might be my favorite record from that entire year, and it would certainly be on a list of my all-time favorites from the genre. Jimmy Eat World does have a sense of early-decade pop-punk on the album, but it’s infused with their now-unmistakable brand of angst-ridden emo, making it a pop-punk sound no other bands have successfully duplicated. Bleed American was the launching point for Jimmy Eat World’s commercial success as well, spawning multiple hit singles.
The most celebrated of those singles were, of course, “The Middle” and “Sweetness.” While the latter is the catchier of the pair, the former is quite possibly one of the most flawless alt-rock No. 1 singles ever. Interestingly enough, neither song is as impressive as the opening title track; starting the record off with an adrenaline-filled dark guitar riff before delving into a chorus that has withstood the test of time, “Bleed American” is still clamored for by fans at live shows. The fourth and final single, all of which cracked the Top 20 on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart, was “A Praise Chorus.” The release of the singles shows how stacked the first half of Bleed American is – all four of those songs appear in the tracklisting within the first five tracks.
That doesn’t mean the album’s b-side is disappointing, though. In fact, it’s surprising that neither “Hear You Me” nor “If You Don’t, Don’t” were released as a classic mid-tempo single. The former probably could have seen major success, with its perfectly produced refrain of, “May angels lead you in.” That brings us to another point – if Mark Trombino wasn’t already a highly sought-after producer before Bleed American, his nearly flawless job on the album certainly helped build his reputation.
Not one to worry fans of their more upbeat style, Jimmy Eat World picks up the pace again before the end of Bleed American in the form of the explosive “Get It Faster” and the brilliant “Authority Song.” Undoubtedly the best song on the second half of the record and a contender among those four singles for the best overall track, “Authority Song” is a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, even danceable number at times. The punk shades are still there, especially in the double-taps coming from Zach Lind’s snare. With the exception of “Sweetness,” the song also might contain Jim Adkins’ best vocal performance on Bleed American.
Praising this album is something that can’t be done enough. Certainly one of the most memorable records of 2001, Bleed American might actually have the most lasting power of any album from that class. There are no bad songs – nothing that even resembles a bad note, really – and it’s needless to say that countless groups have been influenced by the legacy that Jimmy Eat World has left. Worth noting is the triple LP re-release of this record that was recently distributed via Record Store Day. Featuring over 20 songs of b-sides and alternative versions, the re-release is essentially a more in-depth look at Jimmy Eat World’s style around the time of Bleed American – a must-listen for fans who appreciate this record more than the group’s other releases.