Friday, December 16, 2016

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Clarity (Guest Post)

The third and final guest post of the week comes from Simon and Dyfrig of Scumbag Familiar. They've written some words about Jimmy Eat World's Clarity and why they chose to record a song about it for Songs About Albums: Volume 2.

1999 was a dark time for rock music. Limp Bizkit were the one of the biggest bands in the world, but on the positive side, Will Smith had just released the hip-hop epic Wild Wild West. However, we've chosen Jimmy Eat World's Clarity as the cultural highpoint of that particular year, and it still sounds fresh and exciting.

We both first discovered Jimmy Eat World through Bleed American, their breakthrough album which fused big riffs with poppy goodness. Their preceding album, Clarity, is a much more ambitious affair. Not many rock albums start with a ballad, so Table for Glasses is a startling and beautiful opening to what is a genre-defining album.

'Emo' was a dirty word long before Panic! at the Disco (many hardcore bands would undoubtedly sneer at the inward-looking lyrics), but this album stretches both the confines of emo and the wider punk scene. From the drum machines of 12.23.95, to the sprawling loops of the epic Goodbye Sky Harbor, the band's ambition is clear throughout the whole body of work.

Clarity is the album that we both immediately thought of when we agreed to record something for Songs About Albums. (Mind you, we did joke about writing about Limp Bizkit for a good while before we committed to it - not that our music tastes are entirely centred around 1999!) The LP is a mutual favourite and one that we've long recognised as having an influence on the way we write music as a band. We've said that its ambition is one of the things that we admire most about Clarity, and ambition is definitely something that we've worked on in order to expand what we're able to produce as a two piece.

Clarity is full of incredible melodies and vocal harmonies. It's alternative music spliced with poppy hooks. Lucky Denver Mint is a brilliant example of this, as the sparse lyrics of the verse (counterbalanced by the rolling drums) build into a wonderfully melodic chorus. We've always aimed for big melodies within our songs, regardless of how much we experiment with structure, sound, et cetera, and there's no better band to emulate (or imitate?) than Jimmy on that score.

Having toyed for years with our own (shorter) version of the epic 16-minute album closer Goodbye Sky Harbor (without ever nailing it down), we took the sounds we'd used in our interpretation as a starting point for writing this track. We didn't want to do an out-and-out Jimmy rip-off, and so we stuck to our guns in order to write something we thought was recognisably Scummy. Using a few favourite lines (e.g. 'imitate and water down', which felt fittingly like what we were undertaking!) the lyrics were inspired by a particularly beautiful journey through North Wales's amazing countryside that Clarity will always evoke for Si, who had been discovering the album at the time.

What started out as an homage has turned into what we think is one of the best things that we've written, and we're amongst good company on this compilation. It's a great introduction to some fantastic bands, and if it gets you listening to Clarity, then all the better.

Thanks to Si and Dyfrig for sharing this piece. Songs About Albums: Volume 2 is still available for FREE DOWNLOAD from Bandcamp or SoundCloud.

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