While Futures may not blatantly scream “commercial success” as its self-titled predecessor (formerly Bleed American) did in 2001, the album secures the boys of Jimmy Eat World with a number of potential radio hits as well as some new favorites for old school “JEW” fans. An endearing little album, Futures manages to be singsong and thought-provoking at the same time. Though tracks like “Jen” seem almost formulaic, comparable at times to the Bleed American breakout hit “The Middle,” others manage to convey an honesty and soulfulness that many similar bands fail to sell. Standout recordings, namely “Drugs Or Me” and “23,” are well-crafted and emotional, made believable through climactic guitar riffs and the genuineness in frontman Jim Adkins’ characteristic wail. These six-minute-plus anthems are reminiscent of songs that once were the backbone of early Jimmy records like Clarity and Static Prevails.
Now, 10 years and one platinum album later, the band seems to have come full circle. The melodic ballads that Bleed lacked appear to be back in full force on Futures. This is not to say that Jim and the band fail to pack the punch that brought so many eager emo kids to the record stores three years ago. Futures’ opening track of the same name cries of optimism and hope, proclaiming, “Hey now, we’re wide awake and we’re thinking / My darling, believe your votes can mean something.” With “Nothingwrong” and the lead single “Pain,” the band pounds through powerful hooks and angry lyrics as forcefully as their fractured little hearts can. Shouting through “Nothingwrong,” Jim urges, “We wanna know that we own the cake we’re eating / Spit it out!” Musically, the band manages to sound defiant one minute and defeated the next, which keeps the record listenable despite its low moments.
Still, it seems clear to this listener that what Jimmy Eat World does best is convey passionate lyrics through the voice of a man willing to unabashedly wear his heart on his sleeve. And it is Adkins’ believable anguish, coupled with aggressive yet pretty instrumentation that makes the band stand out from its numerous predecessors and gives the boys of Jimmy Eat World the right to be proud of their long journey on the road to success, as long as it doesn’t cause their style to suffer along the way.
[Artsweek hopes Aly Comingore will forgive them for forgetting her byline on last week’s Ray Charles review. Sorry!]