“Clarity” by Jimmy Eat World

130. Song No. 1,875: “Clarity,” Jimmy Eat World
Clarity, 1999

I don’t feel much different than I did the last time I visited a track from the incredible, unequalled and personally devastating perfect gem of an album that is Clarity. I still don’t want to talk about it all that much, even if I did just give the whole album a rare listen and managed to only minimally pick at old wounds the whole time. It’s a beautiful thunderclap of a record and remains one of the most emotionally walloping collections of songs I’ve ever loved, which is why deconstructing it song by song still feels safest. Even if “safe” makes for wan approximations of complex feelings that honestly deserve better.

Except that this album crept into my life during the winter season it sounds like this time, and I wasn’t quite ready for that vicious parallel to assert itself across the years. It is finally/has been slowly becoming less of a ragged edge and more of a dull, familiar ache, but fuuuuuck do some of these songs pack a punch still, especially when the world feels an awful like it did during the time of year when Clarity first took on a whole new emotional resonance with its significance to a relationship where it was practically its own entity.

Fortunately, this album is a terrifically nuanced thing. It has distinct first and second parts, with the quietly leveling bruiser of “12.23.95” marking that division between “holy smokes, this is a good fucking album” and “jesus god, why is this beautiful creature trying to make me uglycry?” It has one of the most deservedly self-indulgent outros ever with the 16-minute epic of “Goodbye Sky Harbor” closing out the album. This titular track itself is a much-needed palate cleanser that bridges the transition between the meat of the album’s densely packed second part and the catharsis of a last song that strikes a different chord entirely.

But that’s just it: “Clarity,” to me, was always more of a function than a song, the penultimate tune serving as both an extension of “Blister” preceding it and the musical version of some Act IV levity heightening the impact of the crushing closer to come. Which is grossly unfair to a tune that’s its own distinct contribution to the best album Jimmy Eat World ever made and one of the best albums second-wave emo can lay claim to.

It is the musical equivalent of that first day you emerge from the fog of interminable depression, coming as it does on the heels of some heartrendingly earnest songs that claw their way from the depths of regret to the soaring ecstasy of recognizing the moment you get to live inside your heaven to the shift in tone that “Blister” ushers in as Clarity hurdles toward its conclusion. And hell yeah, enjoy those proverbial clear skies of an unclouded mind for as long as possible because you’ll be back in the muffled depths of another depressive episode soon enough so why not hang on, sit back and enjoy things for as long and as hard as you can until then.

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