Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Track Attack- "Pain" (Jimmy Eat World, 2004)

(Welcome to "Track Attack", where each Tuesday a "new" song will be reviewed. Anything is fair-game for this feature, from 50s rockabilly to 70s disco and 90s shoegaze or 2000s freak-folk. This week, the feature is tackling Jimmy Eat World's addictive 2004 track "Pain".)
On May 14, 2005 at 10 am I was standing in line for general admission at Kansas City's storied Municipal Auditorium to see Green Day on their colossal American Idiot world-tour. Along with a classmate and his cousin, I eagerly waited in line with the sort-of twitchy energy you'd expect out of a 14 year old. Meaning none of us could wait for large stretches of time without moving. My friend's uncle would hold fort while we aimlessly wandered. We went to the tunnels across the street and marveled at bellowing steam. We saw another portion of Municipal where a ballet recital was occurring. At one point we snuck in a side-door and peered over an upper-level rail to see soundchecks, only to be chased off by a portly security guard in drab gray (we won that race.) Come show time we were dead center front row, lapping up every bit of the spectacle. My Chemical Romance opened that night, long before I knew anything about them, other than the fact that they screamed an awful lot. Screaming aside, it was a show that brought me to a greater appreciation of music, one that I foster to this day.

That said, I am still rankled by one thing. Several months later when the fall-leg of the tour began, Jimmy Eat World became the opening band for Green Day. When I first came across the announcement, I was immensely disappointed. Suddenly the great "spectacle" I had witnessed seemed less grandiose. I couldn't understand the idea of tours "improving" as they kicked off new incarnations. I naively assumed every show was the exact same, no matter what the situation. I felt cheated, like I had been sold an inferior product.

The reason for my disappointment was wrapped up in "Pain", the lead-single off of Jimmy Eat World's fifth LP Futures. My first time hearing "Pain" isn't one of those moments permanently emblazoned on my mind. I don't know where I was or when it happened, those details have been lost in the ether of youth. But I know exactly what drew me to the song. That pronounced guitar-chug. It's simultaneously propulsive and languishing. There's a hidden darkness in the riff that's easy to spot when your disposition is less than sunny. Underneath, another guitar scrapes away; trying to claw its way to towards the light and coming up short. Zach Lind's drum work doesn't do "Pain" any favors either. In the verses it restlessly cranks and clatters, then splays into rapid-fire fills during the chorus. When you try to picture a frenetic punk drummer, Lind's effort should come to mind.

And "frenetic" is quite honestly the only way to describe Adkins in the song. Immediately he's happened upon a feeling he's never felt, one clearly malevolent but also beguilingly mysterious. Instead of singing all about "you" as 2001's "The Middle" did, Adkins adopts first-person tense. When he tells of all the times he's quit or his every flaw, he's operating with "I's." By becoming less relatable, Adkins is even more interesting. Listening, you want to draw closer because he's putting you at such a distance. 

Once the gap is closed, the true horror-show kicks in. White pills are casually swallowed to stave off pain. Adkins vacuously smiles to avoid anyone's suspicion. Most devastatingly every time he quits, he knows the satisfaction he derives is a "false sense of accomplishment." Eventually he'll go back to that small plastic orange bottle because as Rust Cohle reminds us in True Detective, "Time is a flat circle, everything we’ve ever done or will do we’re gonna do over and over and over again." The reason for these cyclical missteps? We're all one in the same. We make attempts to correct our bad behaviors, but habits are hard to kick. We'd rather focus on the light and forget the darkness even exists. "Anyone can say they're all above this," Adkins protests before a flailing solo. We can make the claim, but we all know it isn't true.

Have a suggestion for a future installment of Track Attack? Then feel free to leave it in the comment section.

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