The summer of 2001 was a hot one, and it feels like a different time entirely. It’s a pre-9/11 America, with TRL on our television sets and pop-punk trying to breakthrough with seminal releases from Blink-182, Sum 41 and Alkaline Trio. Emo was ascending with Thursday, Brand New, Saves the Day and most importantly Dashboard Confessional. While some of these would have to wait for their time in the sun, one album would become a staple of radio stations for the next decade and a half. This album is Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American and it’s legacy can’t be understated.
To really set the scene, we must understand what went into this album. The band had released their now-iconic third album Clarity on Capitol Records in 1999, but it had been commercially unsuccessful and the label brass never believed in it. Having felt the sting, Jim Adkins and crew decided to produce Clarity‘s follow-up independently and left Capitol (They would eventually release the album on DreamWorks). What they would craft are 11 tracks that would change the “emo” genre and catapult a bunch of dudes from Mesa into the forefront of the alternative scene in 2001.
Every single one of you reading this knows lead single “The Middle”. It took over the airwaves and continues to be a rock radio staple, reaching the Top 5 on the Hot 100 and number one on the Billboard Alternative chart. Even if you don’t know any other Jimmy Eat World song, you for sure have heard this anthem. It’s one that every teenager adopted to portray their isolationism and awkwardness. While that works, “The Middle” vividly tells the tale of Jimmy Eat World’s feelings about Capitol, the record label that never believed in them.
Put out almost a year later, “Sweetness” was their third single on the album, and made it to number two on the Alternative chart. At this point, however, something had changed not just America but the world: 9/11. Following the terrorist attacks, the band and its label opted to reissue the album and change its name from Bleed American to Jimmy Eat World. This would remain in place until the aforementioned deluxe release in 2008.
Let’s not forget that before this, they were forgotten by Capitol and left to die on the side of the proverbial road by and afterward they were legitimate stars in the scene. When you listen to the record after this it has a totally different tone altogether.
There’s a variety of different approaches taken by the band here in order to complete the whole picture that would become Bleed American. This record has something that’s lost in today’s music: It is a complete album, and by that I mean you can throw on and listen to from front to back. I’m going to leave you with the most gorgeous track off of this album “Hear You Me” enjoy this, and if you love it check out the whole of this influential and fantastic record.