Let’s head back to 1994 this week with Chachi and let me tell you a little bit about my first childhood memory which I’m reasonably certain happened the same winter this album was released.
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I think I’ve spoken about it briefly before but, for those that missed the confession, I was probably one of the last Jimmy Eat World fans to get around to listening to the 1994 album despite my professed love for the band as a whole.
It wasn’t something we could find in Canada nor was it something I can ever recall the band ever speaking about, as though they had shunned their earliest born in favor of younger, cooler, better produced songs almost as quickly as they’d released them.
And in fairness, in 1994, I was 4 years old and the general rule of thumb about memories is that you only start to commit your experiences to memory at about 5 years old and older so, even if I had heard it then, surely I wouldn’t have remembered it.
Except that my first memory really is from when I was about 4 years old.
It was winter, it could have even been the very same December that this album was released into the world, but I can’t quite pinpoint an exact date or even month.
In the memory, I’m standing outside in my backyard just staring off at the snow in my goofy little snowsuit that makes it next to impossible for children to move while wearing, and a dog comes up to me at full speed, knocking me flat. I fall face-first into the snow and can’t get up, the dog now with its paws firmly on my back.
It would have been impossible for me to get up anyways but the dog certainly wasn’t helping matters, and with the snow as high as it was already, it wasn’t long before I started to feel like I was having trouble breathing.
That’s right. My first memory in this world is of me having a mild panic attack as I struggle to figure out how to get a dog off my back.
Which means while young-Jimmy Eat World recorded their first full length album, I, miles and miles away in cold Canada, was fighting for my life.
Eventually, of course, someone came and got the dog off of me and I lived to tell the tale.
The dog was our mixed-breed golden retriever who we affectionately named Cinnamon although the name never suited her personality. Her fur was pretty dark and had a reddish tint to it – we never knew what breed she was mixed with but the colour was similar to that of an Irish Setter.
She was a fine enough dog but she never wholly learned how to behave, often jumping off the dock at the cottage chasing ducks far into the lake, even in terrible rain storms.
She was highly protective and this was the part of her that seemed completely ingrained. If she felt someone was getting too close, or came up too quickly to myself or someone else in my family, she’d snap at them and on a few occasions she bit.
She’d bit my cousin, she’d bit my best friend, and eventually she bit me, too.
She was hanging out one day in the garden cooling down on a hot summer day and little me didn’t understand this to be a time to leave Cinnamon alone. So I went over to give her a pet and she bit my left forearm.
I still have the marks. They never faded and I guess never will.
I tried to cover a couple of them when I got my tattoo because I hated to be reminded of the day Cinnamon bit me.
Because the day Cinnamon bit me was the day my family made the decision to put her down.
And that’s my second most vivid memory in this world. Hearing my family discuss what to do about our troublesome dog, and a couple days later, me sitting with her on the back step of our backyard and apologizing to her as I gave her one last hug.
As I mentioned Cinnamon had always been a bit of trouble and it certainly wasn’t the first time she’d done this but, I’ve always felt wholly responsible that I be the reason she would be put down.
All of this is to say my self-loathing started early in life and no one really teaches you how to deal with those types of emotions, nor do I think anyone in my family ever understood that I felt that way.
I, under no circumstance, would have known how to express it.
When I finally got around to listening to Jimmy Eat World’s 1994 record some decades after its release, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect.
If you’ve heard the band climb their way from Static Prevails now to Surviving and whatever the new album is to be called, you know that they have a tendency to drift in and out of genres just enough to keep things interesting without polarizing their core base. The result is a collection decently varied across the soundscape where you can pick and choose depending on your mood or to suit whatever vibe you’re trying to create for yourself.
The little I had read of the record whenever I’d come across a mention of it wasn’t exactly a glowing review, largely stemming from the band themselves saying something to the tune of, “well, it’s not our best work.”
And while that’s totally fair of them to believe and say as much, it doesn’t exactly scream for any fan to jump to grab a copy of the album.
And that’s the part of it all that is truly amazing because I gotta be honest, when I heard 1994 for the first time I gained an entirely new appreciation for this band and where they started.
It’s actually a really great punk rock record that would rival any of my other favourites who led that space in the same time-frame, it just gets a fraction of the attention and I have to believe the band themselves is to blame for that.
When I finally found a copy, I listened to it twice in a row and then a couple more times after that because I was shocked that this was the actual early-days of Jimmy Eat World.
I’d never considered them to have such punk-rock roots and it’s not at all a sound I would have associated the band with prior to hearing it, but it’s a sound that I find myself craving time and time again.
It hits you like a dog lunging at you from across the yard.
I think we know they won’t but, it would be cool to see them try to return to a similar style even for a one-off, with the musicianship and songwriting talent they have now to blend in whatever gaps they felt this record had.
Beyond all that I love when you can hear the earlier days of a band who have gone the distance because it really helps to propel the very true reality that a lot of what you hear on the radio doesn’t happen overnight.
I often consider how Jimmy Eat World’s biggest breakthrough hit happened with The Middle, but I don’t often take that extra minute to remember that Bleed American was their 4th full-length album.
With often years between albums that’s a whole lot of growth and work that we’re quick to shovel under the “lucky break” umbrella.
All of this is to say that if my first album was 1994, I wouldn’t be so quick to throw it in the “could’ve been better” pile with all the other lost songs that no doubt never made it out of this era of the band.
The one thing that I can say about this record that makes it considerably different than the bands other releases is that lyrically it’s the most disjointed. They veer in and out of themes and thoughts that you could probably throw in with Static Prevails but they never seem to fully realize an idea well enough for you to be able to gain a real understanding of what they’re really trying to say.
And part of that could have been totally intentional – lots of bands do this purposefully, but I think here with 1994 it’s more of a measure of where the band really started when it came to lyric writing.
I have to imagine that when they sat down together and said that they felt it was the right time to record an album, one of the things they shared with 4-year old me is that, they too, didn’t wholly know how to express themselves in the moments that they wrote the lyrics to these songs.
Instead of hearing themes or experiences or ideas, 1994 is a record built more firmly out of raw energy and feeling. It’s frustration, it’s uncertainty, it’s angst; it’s chaotic and messy and you never really know what to expect as each song rolls into the next.
What you really start to see with their subsequent releases is that sometimes it takes years to fully formulate those thoughts and ideas into something structured and cohesive, but without 1994, you’d never be able to truly appreciate that process.
There were only 2000 copies of this album ever made.
I’m hoping that the band all still hold their own copies and one day issue a re-release because as much as this may be a record they look back on less fondly, it was still a pretty pivotal marker in the band’s career as a whole and shoving it to the back of the shelf is really no different than me trying to cover Cinnamon’s bite marks with permanent ink.
I learned a lot that year, even if it would take me years to understand it and I’m betting the band can say the same.
All that said, it’s on to today’s cover – track 1: Chachi.
I took my liberties with this one and made quite a few changes to the overall arrangement and feel of the track. I might’ve been having too much fun with the lead guitar tone I stumbled upon but I think the cover is better for it. I’ll play my version for you now and then after, I’ll jump right into the band’s original recording for you to compare the two.