Jimmy Eat World seems determined to walk safely down the middle-of-the-road.

The blistering, disjointed guitar riff of Jimmy Eat World’s 2001 breakthrough single, ‘Bleed American’, still holds firm as one of the most recognisable rock moments of the noughties. Jim Adkins and co. captured the disenfranchisement of youth in a flashfire three-minute song and ever since, the band has held an ardent fan base. It’s been a tough road for a lot of these fans though; Jimmy Eat World’s subsequent albums have been hit and miss, traversing mostly from benign alt-rock to over-produced slick pop.

2013’s Damage is no different. Despite the interesting premise of recruiting Alain Johannes (part-time QOTSA member and guitar genius) as producer and recording the album on analogue tape, the LP falls pretty flat. Jimmy Eat World too often fall into the comfortable, radio-friendly pop-rock that they’ve been doing for the last few albums. That’s not to say that they aren’t good at it. Adkins can definitely pen an accessible rock tune and they know enough studio tricks to get some love on commercial rock stations, but it just seems so safe.

The most interesting moments on Damage come when the band cast aside the safety net and try something a little bit more creative. The acoustic recollection of ‘Please Say No’ and the playful ‘Book of Love’ (which has Alain Johannes fingerprints all over it) are very strong, and album opener ‘Appreciation’ is the closest to the early aggression heard on 2001’s Bleed American and 2004’s Futures, but these are overshadowed by a lot of unimaginative dross (Does the title track ‘Damage’ sounds like the theme to Friends to anyone else?).

2.5/5 stars

BY RICK WARNER

Damage is out now on Dine Alone Records/RCA Records.

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