“Believe in What You Want” by Jimmy Eat World

80. Song No. 901: “Believe in What You Want,” Jimmy Eat World
Clarity, 1999

All right, look: I’m not going to be able to really dive into the reasons why Clarity and its 13 achingly perfect tracks will forever have a special place in my heart without a couple-three G&Ts lubricating the process so I can be as honest as its story deserves. It was one of my favorite albums and I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it for a very, very long time in fear of finding out that guilt and regret can actually consume a person; I still have a hard time confronting it and the equally breathtaking memories and ghosts it conjures. If not for the Clarity x10 tour reminding me just how good these songs are, there’s a good chance I’d still be actively avoiding what is objectively and unquestionably Jimmy Eat World’s crowning achievement.

But staring it down one song at a time isn’t a bad way of getting things done, and this project’s first appearance of one of the most significant albums in my personal soundtrack actually didn’t sting as much as I thought it would. Even if this song did pop in to say hello on the other side of the town I grew up in on a day when I was having a hard time conducting interviews without crying because hoooooly fuckbars 2020, amirite?

It’s weird to hear this or any other song from Clarity on an unseasonably warm fall day given that one of the more innocuous things it’s steeped in is winter. This album as a whole sounds like nighttime drives in my high-school sweetheart’s car or a chilly dorm room before the heat kicks in or one of the otherwise-abandoned schoolyard playgrounds we’d find solitude in on some brisk but electric cold-weather date night. It is frozen noses and warm breath and miles of scarves and the intoxicating romance of not caring at all about anything in your immediate vicinity except for the person who makes your heart pound in double time.

This song sounds more broadly like winter than a lot of its album-mates and it’s a lot more up-tempo than many of them are, too, but it’s also on the front half of the album that isn’t steeped in the more complicated, harder-to-swallow feelings that “12.23.95” and everything after are apparently forever tinged by. It is the good things you remember about a story with a resolute though unsatisfying ending, because even the hardest stories to tell have so much worth exploring once you muster up the courage to barrel through the years of barriers between you and the parts that hurt to revisit the most.

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