I guess you'd say that this shimmering new offering from Jimmy Eat World is radio-ready. Keyboards hiss and swell in all the right places; every note of each chord strummed on an acoustic guitar seems to ring forever in the ether. And the band's trademark man-boy vocals are so sugary and sweet that you wonder if anyone, living or dead, ever possessed such precise physical equipment.
Of course, the answer to that final question is a firm "no." Because in many ways, Chase This Light is more a construction of the contemporary recording-studio control room than it is a personal statement by a set of creative writers and players. I'm sure some gearhead could tell me exactly which digital effects were used to generate the breathy reinforcing vocal hook on "Let It Happen" or which ones smooth out the high-pitched guitar filigree in the background of the continuously climaxing lead track, "Casino." Frankly, I haven't a clue as to what they are, but I do know that they give these tunes a strange, mechanized quality that's not altogether pleasing, despite all the man-hours that obviously went into perfecting it.
At one point, Jimmy Eat World represented pop-rock's ne plus ultra of adolescent yearning, and to be fair, a lot of yearning takes place on this album (for various girls, for a purpose, for lost youth, for the past, etc.). But now, more than anything else, they come across as a well-designed product that's not about much more than shiny sonic surfaces. That's not a big problem when it comes to, say, placing your breast-beating fare in the latest TV show or movie about well-to-do kids suffering the slings and arrows of growing up. But I wonder what real kids with real hopes, dreams and, well, pimples will think of Jimmy Eat World circa 2007. My guess is that they'll tire of that "perfect" sonic sheen pretty quickly.