The Power of Discomfort

When it comes to music, I find it incredibly difficult (and mostly pointless) to forcibly remove emotions from the picture. That isn’t to say that I don’t try to objectively view music at all, particularly when trying to convey my thoughts and feelings to others, but in the end, acknowledging that a song is derivative or simple won’t stop me from enjoying it, and recognizing that a song is creative or skillfully written won’t automatically make me fall in love with it.  In the case of “Disintegration” by Jimmy Eat World, however, my appreciation is a powerful blend of the two, enjoying it on a personal level while being confident that it’s one of the best compositions that Jimmy Eat world has released in their more than two decades of making music.

“Disintegration” follows a theme, from its title, to its lyrics, to its timbre, key, and its every instrument.  It oozes discomfort in the most effective, poignant way; it feels toxic and disconcerting, and as Adkins sings, “Rather live my life in regret / than do this,” the desperation is palpable. The specifics are not entirely evident from the lyrics, but it is completely clear that the narrator of the song wants out of a relationship, in spite of whatever fueled it once.  The gloomy backing riff, atypical drum rhythm, and eerie harmonies are overpoweringly haunting, to the degree that you could tune out every lyric and you would still be able to understand the song’s scream that something is very wrong throughout its nearly 8-minute journey, from its quiet inception to the frantically layered vocals as it approaches its close.

Part of me wants to be disappointed or confused that such an intense, emotional piece didn’t make it onto a full album, but at the same time, it seems incredibly fitting that it wound up where it did. For one thing, I certainly couldn’t imagine it having a place on Futures, the album from which it is a B-side. For another thing, its placement on Stay On My Side Tonight (the name of which comes from the lyrics of “Disintegration”) allows it to be highlighted as it deserves; on an album, it would be placed near the back, but on this EP, it’s the clear standout track, the headliner that kicks it all off. It’s not that the rest of the EP isn’t fantastic—rather the opposite, in fact—but “Disintegration” is my primary association with Stay On My Side Tonight, and I’d argue that it’s worth your money for “Disintegration” alone.

It’s not a song for a happy day, but the sheer intensity of “Disintegration” is so powerful that it deserves much more prominence than it has, and I implore people to give it a listen and appreciate the haunting atmosphere it presents.

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