Jimmy Eat World didn’t set out to make an acoustic album with its eighth studio album “Damage.”
And the album, released earlier this month, certainly isn’t unplugged, with plenty of the band’s signature punk guitar crunch and pounding rhythms underscoring frontman Jim Adkins’ yearning vocals.
But there’s an acoustic guitar at the heart of each of the 10 songs on the album, which makes sense, considering that’s how Adkins wrote them. The sound has led to some surprising, yet completely welcome comparisons.
Jimmy Eat World
WITH: Balance & Composure
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Upstate Concert Hall, 1208 Route 146, Clifton Park
HOW MUCH: $30 (door); $27 (advance)
MORE INFO: 371-0012, www.upstateconcerthall.com
“A lot of the demos Jim came in with were all — all of them started acoustically, and we as a band got together and then each put our own parts down,” guitarist and occasional vocalist Tom Linton said recently from Germany, during the band’s European tour.
“And when you’re in the studio, you just felt that acoustic kind of music in there in a lot of the songs. When we took it away, it didn’t sound right. So having it in the songs, having that sound in there — I don’t know. Some people have heard it sounding a little kind of R.E.M.-ish, I guess you would say, which is a huge compliment.”
This month the band is criss-crossing between the U.S. and Canada, traveling throughout the continent. The band’s performance at Upstate Concert Hall on Wednesday will be its first in the Capital Region since 2008’s show at the Washington Avenue Armory, back when the band was touring behind 2007’s “Chase This Light.”
“It takes us a long time — we tour for usually like a year, a year and a half, and then we spend a lot of time working on the new record,” Linton said. “That’s why it takes so long. We wish we could play there more; there’s a lot of places we want to play.”
In the time away, Jimmy Eat World also released 2010’s “Invented,” an album that saw the band branching out with electronic elements and slicker production, courtesy of Mark Trombino, who also worked on the band’s early albums “Static Prevails” (1996), “Clarity” (1999) and breakthrough “Bleed American” (2001). “Damage” continues in the power-pop mold of “Invented” but scales back the production somewhat, capturing the band in a more live setting.
“I think we were really prepared going into the studio, where sometimes we’ve gone into the studio where we were like, the lyrics weren’t totally done, or we were finding ourselves kind of copying and pasting little parts of the songs trying to make it work,” Linton said.
“This was a lot better just having our everything together as a band when we went into the studio. It was like, all back-to-back, 95 percent straight one take for the whole song — it went straight to the tape machine, and that kind of gave the record a different sound, too.”
Recording on tape
The band recorded to tape for the first time on this album, working with producer and regular Queens of the Stone Age collaborator Alain Johannes.
“He is the best musician I think I’ve ever seen in my life,” Linton said. “The last couple of records we recorded at our studio at home in Tempe, Arizona, and on this record we wanted to put a little bit more pressure on ourselves, so we went out to L.A. to talk to Al and listen to his ideas. When we found out that this was the guy we wanted to work with, we hauled all of our stuff to L.A. and spent a couple months there. He just had great ideas and kind of knew exactly what we were going for.”
The stripped-down aesthetic is most apparent in the album’s final track, “You Were Good,” essentially a live recording of Adkins singing and playing the song on acoustic guitar with organ from Linton and some guitar from Johannes. Throughout the track, a droning sound similar to sitar loops constantly in the background.
“It’s kind of hard to describe — it was like this old, Indian — a pitch thing you can buy; it looked like a little radio, and you can tune it to different notes,” Linton said.
One thing fans won’t find on this album is a vocal by Linton. When the band formed in 1993, he was the primary vocalist, singing lead on the band’s punky self-titled debut and “Static Prevails.” On “Invented” he sang “Action Needs an Audience,” his first lead vocal spot on a Jimmy Eat World record in 11 years, and live he still sings some older songs. In 2009 the band performed “Clarity,” which has a Linton-led song, in its entirety at a number of shows celebrating the record’s 10-year anniversary.
“We never sat down and said, ‘All right, I’m gonna sing this,’ ” Linton said. “Usually what happens is, there will be a song that the band has where the music is completed and there’s no lyrics on it, and that’ll be more — I’ll just focus on it and try to put lyrics to it, see if I come up with something.”
In interviews, Adkins has described the album as an “adult breakup record,” but the band has found the themes resonating with both younger and older fans.
“At the shows, it’s a range of — you see little kids, where it might be their first show,” Linton said, “and then I saw a guy last night that was probably my dad’s age in the front row. It’s just a wide range of people. And I think some of the songs on the record are definitely adult breakup songs, but there are some songs that are straight up love songs. . . . I think Jim wanted to write — when he was writing the record, he was trying to write about the worst parts of breaking up and heartache.”
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