Are you alone like me? Alone but not lonely…
The best bands aren’t necessarily the ones that write the most complicated riffs or have a pitch-perfect vocalist. They’re the ones capable of, time and time again, delivering the equivalent of musical butterflies. Those goosebumps you get, or that lump in your throat, when you realize that a song relates perfectly to an aspect of your life. Jimmy Eat World have always been that band for me, and as recently as 2016, they’ve released an album that somehow manages to connect with every fabric of emotion inside of me. That’s why I’ll fight for Integrity Blues as not only the best Jimmy Eat World album, but also one of the very best of the entire decade.
I had a hell of a time selecting one song from Integrity Blues to represent Jimmy Eat World for the decade, but “Pol Roger” hits hardest every time. The beautiful thing about music is that you can always make it about you, and “Pol Roger”, to me, feels like one of the most honest tributes to self-contained happiness. For the better part of my adolescent life, as well as my young adult life, I relied on others for happiness. It’s not that I had an unfulfilling upbringing or anything, I just always felt an intrinsic sense of loneliness – like my life only carried meaning if I was somebody else’s “number one”; this ridiculous idea that I needed to matter the most to someone else. Without that feeling – which was sparse for the first twenty five years of my existence – I somehow deemed myself inadequate…incapable of being loved. “Pol Roger” reminds me of a turning point in my own personal life – when I finally became fed up with chasing external approval and learned to love myself.
The song is littered with references to finding contentment with oneself, independent of others:
Thanks for the offer, but I’m not scared to spend my birthday alone
Miles of water, sun, and sand, a gift I give myself
No one in sight for help
I walked at random ’til I lost everyone, some corner of Hyde Park
Got to my knees and planted hands, and let the world go dark
As it progresses it culminates in a gorgeous chorus, which rejects co-dependence, and ultimately realizes that love is inside us all:
First they’ll think you’re lost, but you’re not
It’s the easy feeling
Yeah, there’s every chance you could crash
If you don’t believe it
Why spend more time in a lie if it goes on that way?
Love don’t come to you, who knew?
It just was there always
Musically, the song commences with horns and elegant strings, while rising and falling between subdued introspective verses and triumphant, declarative refrains. Jim Adkins sings with such conviction that he makes an automatic believer even out of the most skeptical listeners. Raw sincerity is a rare commodity in any genre of music, and “Pol Roger” glows with the embers of pain that has been long suppressed – only to occasionally shrine fully through in these rare glimpses, as if Adkins is choosing to expose his vulnerabilities within a select few moments. My personal favorite is when he sings: “Are you alone like me? Alone but not lonely.” It’s such a simple sentiment: to find satisfaction within oneself, such that you can be totally isolated and still not have a care in the world. “Pol Roger” executes the concept with astounding clarity and a sense of poetic beauty that is impossible not to quote. It’s so easy to take the atmosphere and lyrics of “Pol Roger” and make them into a theme for self-empowered will.
This is the kind of song that is capable of changing lives, and I know because it changed mine. That is worth at least a spot on some decade list.