For me, summer will always be about adventure, long drives, and great stories. That’s why the first album I could ever count on this list is Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American. Blistering pop songs swirling around themes of adventure and romance make it hard not to associate the album with the spirit of summer nights. Also, I absolutely ruined a road trip with this album in high school.
Shortly after this album’s release, my friend Max took a few friends on a road trip to an amusement and water park in southern Indiana. With his mom driving, we shuffled through a pile of CD’s, pulling out Bleed American somewhere near the start of the journey. I don’t remember if this was my first time hearing the album or not, but I know this is where I fell in love with it. Three of us sang along with every song for two back-to-back listens while Max’s mom drove on with a quiet smile.
At one point, Max changed discs to listen to something else, but the instant it ended, our friend Jim and I demanded Bleed American again from the backseat. Then again. And again.
Over the course of multiple replays, Jim and I obnoxiously sang along in the backseat with sugar-infused confidence and loudly protested every time someone tried to change albums. After several hours, his mom white-knuckled the steering wheel in rage. Max glared at us from the reflection of the rear view mirror. He passive aggressively sighed, “Jesus Christ,” between songs. The pile of other CD’s had been sneakily hidden from view or reach from the front seats, leaving only Bleed American to light the way like an angsty Rudolph.
Jim asked for someone to replay “A Praise Chorus” again for the third time in a row, which is the moment Max’s mom snapped.
“No! Anything else. Just for a while, please play anything else,” she protested.
“Please,” begged Max.
“Okay,” said Jim, “Can we listen to ‘The Middle’ then?”
Max took the CD out of the stereo and threw it in the glove compartment, a move he should have made hours earlier and looked out the window in seething anger until the pile of other albums was returned. This process repeated itself on the journey home, testing the boundaries of friendship and human decency for all involved.
Jimmy Eat World represents a core summer album for me. Bleed American finds a rich balance between crunching rock anthems and emotional ballads that mimics the hot days and cool nights. It was released in an age when I was just discovering my taste in music, and may be the first band I fell in love with that wasn’t exclusively Drive-Thru Records style pop punk madness.
Many of the band’s biggest hits came from this album and aren’t especially summer themed, but there is an added sense of magic associated with them in the right atmosphere. Jimmy Eat World’s music has mellowed over the years, but Bleed American will always burn with the energy of an era when we were just beginning to explore the world at large.
by Kyle Schultz