When Jimmy Eat World started recording their third full-length LP, Clarity, they suspected it would be their last. Formed in Mesa, Arizona during the era when major labels were absorbing alternative rock bands as if through osmosis, they signed to Capitol in the mid-’90s, and the first album they recorded for the label, 1996’s Static Prevails, performed below expectations. They knew if they didn’t sell significantly more on the second attempt, the label would drop them.
They also assumed this would be the last chance they’d have the budget to make a really big album—not “big” in the sense of volume and speed, but more in the way even a small painting can seem big, the enormity of the subject suggested by how finely-wrought its details are. They would record every idea they had in search of this effect. Organs, synthesizers, vibraphones, and any kind of percussion instrument they could find—including timpani—blanketed the floor of the studio like unruly houseplants.