The sparsely outfitted dressing room at London’s Brixton Academy is no place to be a fly on the wall. At least not when Jimmy Eat World are in town. Any dirt-digging visitor itching for misbehavior — the sort of liquor-soaked shenanigans that would surely come naturally to any group of newly minted rock celebrities — is destined for disappointment: There are no groping groupies here, just doting, unerringly polite parents and a supportive girlfriend. As for potential inebriants, a cursory snoop about the room reveals nothing much stronger than a still-corked bottle of red wine.
In fact, the mood is so unnaturally placid that a few hours before his band takes the stage for the biggest gig of their career, bassist Rick Burch stands in the middle of the room, semi-aggressively waving a Frisbee at a cluster of flies whose buzzing threatens the preconcert calm.
”Ah… Almost… Missed it…”
”Got it…here’s another.”
The room smiles politely. And order is restored to Jimmy Eat World’s disarmingly normal universe of ‘sects, (no) drugs, and rock & roll — a strangely upbeat reality that took seven years, two labels, and a Johnny Depp poster to achieve. It’s a feel-good story—one that, alas, is safe for the entire family.
”Why aren’t you a — holes?” drummer Zach Lind asks backstage, surrounded by the same non-a — holes — frontman-singer-guitarist Jim Adkins; bassist Burch, guitarist Tom Linton — he’s palled around with since they were high schoolers in suburban Mesa, Ariz. — hardly rock-y terrain. Lind is mimicking the press’ routinely aghast reaction to that quality Jimmy Eat World inevitably get tagged with. The N-word: nice. ”Everybody wants us to be the Rolling Stones, this band teetering on the edge of imploding at any moment,” groans Adkins.
You can’t blame us for pining for Mick-‘n’-Keef-style madness. If our excess-addled elders have taught us anything, it’s that life on the road is meant for tossing TVs, snorting what can’t be smoked, and making sure you have plenty of spare room keys to distribute postshow. It is not for hanging with your moms. Jimmy Eat World’s moniker may hint at a hunger for global domination, but the band doesn’t have an appetite for destruction; they want to rock you in the politest way possible.
Nowhere is this unspoken credo better evidenced than on Jimmy Eat World, the group’s platinum-bound fourth full-length release. (If your CD spine says Bleed American, it’s not a misprint; though it was released under that title last summer, the band renamed it after 9/11.) Alternating between achingly sincere anthems like ”The Middle” (their first top 10 hit) and shivs of urgency like ”Salt Sweat Sugar,” their songs make bold statements (about happiness, frustration) without delving into bothersome specifics.
”It’s not overt social commentary,” notes Luke Wood, the group’s A&R rep. ”It’s about struggling alone in a community, and finding your place.”