I foolishly anticipated Jimmy Eat World's new album Damage would be a spiritual descendent of the group's heart-wrenching emo masterpiece Clarity—or at least of its followup, the considerably more commercial but still frequently arresting Bleed American. Jim Adkins himself described Damage in an interview prior to its release as "raw and warm," and mentioned that "there was less of an emphasis placed on being clean and perfect" during the process of making the album—was it unreasonable to assume? Turns out "raw and warm" by Adkins circa 2013's standards is still pretty prefabricated compared to the group's landmark '90s releases. But the good news is that the songs are by no means bad: Like antecedent pop craftsmen Paul McCartney or Tom Petty, Adkins' songs are always sturdy, if sometimes emotionally vacuous. And the other good news is that, unlike some bands from the same era, J.E.W. never purposefully disowned their emo roots. They still play "Crush" from time to time, and that's all that fucking matters. MORGAN TROPER
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