JIMMY EAT WORLD

Chase This Light

(Interscope)

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Jimmy Eat World have been a band for nearly a decade and a half. They formed in 1994 and released Static Prevails in 1996. The Tucson, Arizona, group really started winning over adolescent hearts with 1999's Clarity, a breakthrough record that revealed the heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics, bittersweet balladry, and energetic pop they would perfect with 2001's Bleed American (renamed Jimmy Eat World after 9/11). That album secured JEW's status as full-on anthem rockers, but with their 2004 follow-up, Futures, the band stumbled, experimenting with dark, moody, shoegazing in songs that were ultimately weak and unmemorable.

Good news: Jimmy have returned to their big rock, pre-Futures sound with Chase This Light's opening tracks "Big Casino" and "Let It Be," and the album's fifth track, "Electable (Give it Up)" is—dare I say—even catchier than Bleed American's beloved single "The Middle." The title track, though a bit slower, is still wonderfully romantic and melodic.

Bad news: JEW are getting older, but they can't seem to grow up. The catchy choruses and sparkling guitars shine even brighter with Butch Vig's polish, but after the initial explosion wears off, the band's arrested lyrical development begins to show. "Here It Goes," an anthem for the classic teenage scene of dancing alone in one's bedroom, is only the most embarrassing example. Dramatic, adolescent one- liners—seemingly custom made to be MySpace headlines—pop up throughout. On "Let It Be," Jim Adkins sings, "I have a ringing in my head/and no one to help me answer it;" on "Big Casino," he quips, "There's a lot of good ideas in books I never read/When the girls come talk to me, I wish to hell I had."

Jimmy Eat World's glittery, romantic sound hasn't dulled, but their lyrics haven't matured past the stuff of teenage fantasy. Chase This Light isn't as focused as Bleed American, but it's not as lost as Futures either. It could be a great introductory record for a new generation of JEW fans who don't remember the band's past triumphs (Clarity, Bleed American) and failures (Futures). But longtime fans won't be completely satisfied. MEGAN SELING

Jimmy Eat World play Thurs Oct 11, Showbox at the Market, 8 pm, $22 adv/$25 DOS, all ages.

THE FIERY FURNACES

Widow City

(Thrill Jockey)

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It's about time a Fiery Furnaces album included a lyric sheet. Not because you couldn't understand the words before—Eleanor Friedberger always enunciates clearly—but because it adds a new level of gamesmanship to the proceedings. Now that you can see what the words are, you get to guess what will accompany them—because ever since 2004's Blueberry Boat, Eleanor and her brother (composer and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Friedberger) have been as likely as not to make every verse sound different from the one before it in the same song, creating songs full of abrupt gear shifts, anthems for the ADD-addled.

This has led to a lot of strong, smart music that's usually engaging as it plays but is hard to remember after the fact. That's certainly the case with Widow City, which comes 18 months after Bitter Tea—an eternity in Furnaces time. (The band's first five albums, including 2005's misleadingly titled EP, were issued in less than three years.) The opening track, "The Philadelphia Grand Jury," is a good example: Slip-sliding guitarmonies carry a tune over a clip-clopping beat, like an outtake from an early Todd Rundgren album, while Eleanor sings about courtroom drama. Then, after the first refrain, a couple lines that fit the song thematically but sound like they've come from a completely different song are abruptly edited in.

Much of the rest of Widow City works in a similar manner: It has an expansive classic-rock feel that helps smooth over the bumpier stuff, as with "Duplexes of the Dead" and "Automatic Husband," which segue seamlessly into each other and sound more alike than longer multipartite cuts like "Clear Signal from Cairo." That song's "It's a clear, it's a clear, it's a clear" tag may be the single most annoying thing this studiedly annoying band has ever recorded. The fact that Widow City lacks the charge of 2004's Blueberry Boat—where the Friedbergers patented their rapid-fire switcheroos—might be down to overfamiliarity with the trick. But not counting the singles collected on EP, it's probably their friendliest album in the style. MICHAELANGELO MATOS

The Fiery Furnaces play Tues Oct 16, Crocodile, 9 pm, $13 adv/$15 DOS, 21+.

BLACK LIPS

Good Bad Not Evil

(Vice)

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It can be hard to hear the Black Lips for all the piss and spit. Every press release, review, and interview of the band (even this one) inevitably gets hung up on their infamous early reputation for onstage debauchery, frequently at the expense of more clear- eyed criticism.

Even the run-up to the band's latest and perhaps best album has been more about their sideshow freakiness than the main attraction. Their recent record-release party in NYC was promoted by a 57-year-old man in roller skates scaling a sculpture outside the Trump Tower, eating an orange, and tossing out Black Lips flyers. The man was, according to the band, acting on his own. But the release party itself was perhaps just as much of a spectacle, a "Bad Kids Parade" through Williamsburg kicked off with a kind of talent show/acoustic performance at record store Sound Fix, featuring face painters and costumes, led by a marching band, and all egged on by the band's antics.

It's too bad, because overshadowed by all the mayhem is a fine album of fuzzed-out, fucked-up garage rock. "I Saw a Ghost (Lean)" is a Southern syrup anthem blasted from a dirt bike and a boom box rather than the trunk of a candy-coated convertible. "Katrina" is a defiantly upbeat lament for New Orleans. "Navajo" is a costume Western with hints of Don Armando's "I'm an Indian, Too." The narcotic drawl and sometimes lisp of "Lock and Key" nearly turns "messin' around" into "methin' around." Anthem "Bad Kids" is delinquent, acid-droppin' rock 'n' roll. "Off the Block" is an atomic surf jam. "Transcendental Light" is a sweet death trip. Throughout, the clean recording captures both the band's frayed tie-dyed edges and classic pop sensibilities more clearly and cohesively than ever. Just try to ignore the roller-skating hoboes and bodily fluids. ERIC GRANDY

Black Lips play Fri Oct 12, Crocodile, 9 pm, $12, 21+.

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