This week I unveiled track 20 in my recreation of the Jimmy Eat World catalogue which means I’ve completed two full-Jimmy-length albums now – not bad!
It was one of the quicker tracking and mixing sessions – not intentionally, of course, but it can get a little tricky fitting in recording sessions after work on the weekdays, and on the weekend I was shuffling around trying to prepare for my trip to Poland to see the band play in Warsaw so it felt like I had next to no time to actually sit down and sift this one out.
All that said, I don’t take tackling “The Middle” terribly lightly. It’s by far the bands most iconic and well recognized song and even a simple cover band artist like Jaimee Eat World feels the pressure that comes along with it. I was surprised at how well it came together given the constraints I was working under – and honestly the most I listen to it, the more I like it! Hopefully the feeling is mutual on your end.
Regrettably there are no live-stream archive recordings of this session other than the original acoustic demo cut that I worked off of. I was running for a bit over an hour on the rhythm guitars one day when Instagram had a meltdown and booted me out, and the bass/vocal sessions that followed were whipped in so quickly that I didn’t even bother with setting up the feed for them; Too excited to get them done. That one’s my bad, I just think it’s a bummer when I don’t have the full set of videos to show you guys!
Listen to Jimmy Eat World’s original recording of The Middle here:
Now, check out mine:
When I first announced this cover I said that it was the song that needed no introduction and I believe that to be so true that I was originally not going to include the intro guitar line at all, but there are a couple key moments in this song that are so incredibly embedded in my upbringing that I couldn’t leave them out – and that’s one of them.
I actually opted to reproduce the line on my bass instead and ran it through some EQ and effects. It’s supposed to give you the feeling of hearing the line being performed from inside a club/rock venue and then when the first verse comes in, you’ve now made your way inside. Hopefully that comes across – I think it turned out pretty cool!
The other part that I couldn’t not include is snagged from that killer guitar solo you all know, love and wish you wrote. I weave it into the chorus to tease it a few times before I mucked around with my own version of the solo that sort of just alludes to it without ever really replicating it. I was going to go completely left field with this one and really change it up but, I think this one turned out pretty well, too, while celebrating the original riff. That was important to me because when I was first learning how to play guitar, very few riffs or solos caught my attention long enough and in such a way to make me want to sit down and learn how to play it (I talk about this briefly on my Live At The Billiard Room Interview below). This was really the only one I ever cared to learn properly way back when – to be honest I really gotta re-learn it properly still but, well, you know.
Give it a go on headphones to catch the full effect.
I chirp this song a fair bit because, well, I don’t know, I just have to! It’s the song everyone references when they hear the name Jimmy Eat World and not to knock it, there are just so many other great songs in the collection that it almost pains me that we always defer to this one.
Little side story – back in 2020 when I was getting underway with developing this project, I’d have my TV on in the background (usually the news to stay advised of all the chaos we were all experiencing) and there was this Ikea commercial that would come on almost every single programming break. At first it was oddly comforting – they licensed The Middle and had reproduced the track with a bunch of kids singing on it – very light, easy to listen to, oddly soothing – until it wasn’t. Until I’d heard it so many times that the kids started to sound insanely creep and eventually, I’d find myself switching the channel or cutting the volume when it came on.
Of all the things to ruin The Middle for me after like 20 years of listening to it, I didn’t expect it to be Ikea.
Anyway, let’s jump into those lyrics!
Is it fair that we don’t jump into each verse by itself and just talk about this song as a whole?
That’s why I’m going to do anyways.
I’m sitting here at Pearson airport in Toronto waiting for my flight to Warsaw, Poland. On my right is a large Tim Hortons dark roast coffee (with cream) sat between two globs of sour cream left over from whoever was sitting at this table before me. I’ve been quite careful not to let my cup touch it, but it’s been a challenge.
Around me several other seats have opened up as passengers heading to various destinations are making their way to their boarding lines and I still have two hours to go before my flight takes off, delayed about an hour from its initial departure time.
What does this have to do with The Middle?
Everything. This has everything to do with The Middle.
It seems important to me to mention here that my first real distinct memory of becoming a Jimmy Eat World fan actually didn’t start with The Middle. I had found my way into their music through the deep seated ugly dark web doors of music pirating (much of which back then was actually just porn listed under popular song titles). But it is the song that has followed me the most through my entire adolescence and into adulthood (or whatever we’ve been able to make of it).
I’ve spent an unusually large amount of time considering why I am such a big fan of this band and subsequently why I can’t let go of this project until it’s complete.
I’ve thought about all the other bands that made up my list of favourites around the same time and what set them apart from each other, which ones I’ve held onto and which ones I let go of, or at least shuffled into the back of the CD drawer.
While I’d argue that Blink 182 did the most for pop-punk and punk-rock kids in the 90’s and 2000’s here in Ontario, Canada, in that they had the largest impact on our music scene and influenced the most young musicians to jump into these genres, over time my own interest in that band fizzled quite a bit; Mostly around the time that Tom Delonge left the band to persue his other projects (I followed, and still follow those), whereas I can say with certainty that Jimmy Eat World has had the largest impact on me personally.
I think one of the biggest reasons Blink 182 was never able to hold me in the same way is because lyrically they really do cater to the adolesecent/teen-boy frame of mind, and there are just entirely too many songs that don’t speak to what it looks and feels like to grow up a misfit young girl in Canada. In fact, what I came to realize about a lot of my favourite bands when I was younger and much more impressionable, is that almost all of them followed that same trajectory. Canadian pop-punk outfits like Sum 41 and Simple Plan really followed the Blink 182 blueprint as closely as they could and as a result at some point as a young-female fan, you start to feel like they don’t quite “get” you.
The big difference happened within Jimmy Eat World’s lyrical content; not only do they switch about the pronouns in their storytelling, but often times they are speaking directly to their female listener base.
And that brings us back to The Middle.
The reason The Middle is so wildly popular actually has very little to do with that killer guitar solo. That song happened upon the global music market space at a time when most bands simply… weren’t doing or saying what this song does. They weren’t trying to empower young listeners to take their lives in their hands and encourage them to follow their dreams – they just weren’t. Not in this way, not speaking to a universal truth and longing to feel accomplished and proud of yourself, your ideas, and your future.
Jimmy Eat World have actually spent decades doing this and that’s why they still champion in this space.
The lyrics are so simple and that drives its universal appeal – because I at every key stage of my own life, from pre-teen to 30-something, still can take away from its message, apply it, and remind myself to consider what I want to accomplish in life and that it’s up to me to make it happen and that it’s not worth worrying about what other people are saying or thinking about me (easier said than done, of course).
And it started with wanting to learn to write a song, and then wanting to learn how to play some chords, and then wanting to learn how the hell he played that lick so fast.
And now today as I work slowly towards releasing more of my own original music and accomplish those other goals I have that have been sitting in the back of my own mind since I started pirating this bands music, I often find myself thinking about this incredible impact that this band and this song has had when it came to key decision making in my life.
When I was younger and feeling at a loss, I’d catch myself reminding myself that it would be alright. Even that simple line was and remains so impactful, because I simply didn’t have anyone else saying this to me then, and often even now. The reinforcement is critical to just getting out of bed every day and trying to make a little bit more progress because so often you can just feel like you’re spinning the wheels and going nowhere.
One of the things I know for certain is that this type of positive approach to songwriting is so important – other young musicians that are not at all unlike me when I was just starting, still desperately need this type of music. Especially young girls who are interested in playing rock music.
At the risk of going off on a bit of a tangent, it is excruciating to me that we still lack women so much in the rock music space specifically. You’d really think we would have made some headway in this industry since the time this song first hit the airwaves but we still have so many barriers and hurdles to overcome before we can even consider women siting on a level playing field.
And so while it annoyed the absolute ever loving hell out of me when that Ikea commercial began penetrating my dreams and turning them into creepy-child-filled nightmares, turning one of the most influential songs of my lifetime into a cheap Swedish nursery rhyme to accompany the building of a double bed with under-storage, I bet some 8-year old kid heard that song for the first time that way and god-willing, they went to download a hopefully-not-porn-copy of the track on their… wait, I guess they would’ve just used Spotify to stream it, bypassing that whole unsightly-ambushed-porn thing that used to happen to us back in the early 2000’s…. maybe this is Spotify’s saving grace after all, keeping children’s eyes off of porn?
How long have I been in this airport?
Well, once they call my gate for boarding it’s off to Poland for about a week. I’ll be catching the band play at Klub Proxima in Warsaw on Thursday night and I’m pretty pumped for it. Hopefully we get a chance to say hey (Hey!) to the guys, but otherwise, just super amped to be on a little vacation and taking in some new sights.
I’ll be blogging a bit from Poland and thinking about which track to cover next. Something Loud? I don’t know, maybe. It’s a great track but I’m not sure I want to jump into brand new Jimmy stuff JUST yet. I still have like 8 albums of older stuff to do!
If there’s something you wanna hear covered sooner, let me know and I’ll move it up on the priority list.
Thanks for sticking it out with me through these first two albums. How many of you didn’t expect me to get this far?
Don’t write me off just yet…