The Arizona quartet Jimmy Eat World is so unassuming that its ordinariness is its main virtue. It plays riff-heavy alt-rock that isn't quite cutting-edge, but not quite stuck in 1995 either. And on Bleed American, its fourth and best album, it weaves in and out of the pop-rock landscape traversed by similar-minded bands since the genre took a major hit a few years back. It's not too smart, nor is it stupid; it's ordinary rock and roll played by ordinary guys. Bleed American was recorded by the group on its own after it was dropped from its previous label. So there's a certain economical nature to the grooves, with nothing really wasted or frivolous. Every note and word that comes from singer Jim Adkins seems to have a purpose, even if that purpose is something as small as making a good pop song. Such unpretentiousness keeps the album from sinking into routine.
There's a pattern to Adkins's songs -- misery, joy, cynicism, elation. He's a basic emotions kinda guy, and Bleed American plays on the value of those sentiments. Occasionally the album slips because of it -- maybe because it's just a little too simple for its own good. There's nothing distinctive to Jimmy Eat World; only the power rock of the title track displays any force. But with so many rockers and rappers in your face these days with their music and attitude, there's a certain comfort in the mild universe of Jimmy Eat World. Enjoy the defenselessness.