There's one group of people who'll undoubtedly be disappointed by Futures
: anyone who longed for Jimmy Eat World's return to "Goodbye Sky Harbour", the sixteen-minute track that closed Clarity
doesn't offer much in the way of sonic exploration; while closer "23" runs over seven minutes, that's really because it's a slow-building anthem -- beginning quietly, then gradually becoming a soaring, majestic rock tune, and finally settling down and ending the disc with a whimper rather than a bang. Then again, anyone who likes JEW solely for a song like "Goodbye Sky Harbour" is probably missing the band's point entirely (and was also probably living under a rock for most of 2001 and 2002, when Bleed American
launched ubiquitous hits "The Middle" and "Sweetness").
So what is the band's point? With album art as bleak as Futures' cover, and song titles like "Kill", "Pain" and "Drugs or Me", it may seem as if they've gained an edge that was only previously hinted at, and taken on a much darker view of the world. And while the harder riffs driving opening tracks "Futures" and "Just Tonight..." initially seem to live up to that perception, a closer look reveals the group's true heart: they have an optimistic, sweetly (but not cloyingly) sentimental world view. "I always believed in futures, I hope for better" frontman Jim Adkins sings on the titular opener, and that's the sort of viewpoint that carries the band through the next fifty minutes.
Sometimes, as on future classic "Work", it may just be a temporary way of looking at things, as Adkins sings a plea to forget the past and live in the moment, over a tune that borrows heavily from "For Me This Is Heaven". Elsewhere, as with "The World You Love", it's his declaration that "I'm in love with the ordinary", followed by the optimistic outlook of "Don't it feel like sunshine after all?".
Mind you, Futures isn't entirely happy-go-lucky -- the group may claim to favor these glossy rock-out moments, but they still have their angst to out. There's something distinctly emo about "Night Drive"'s chorus, with the lines, "Kiss me with your cherry lipstick / Never wash you off my face / Hit me, I can take your cheap shot". Even so, it's an indication that JEW are a notch above the pretenders to their crown; most acts aspiring to what Futures accomplishes would likely aim for the teenage drama market by substituting chapstick for lipstick.
And really, that's the thing about Futures -- it sticks with what Jimmy Eat World have always done, but it sounds better than anything that preceded it. Fans who miss the band's experimentation and lament their move towards a more refined sound will dismiss Futures as one more step away from their roots. Everyone else will recognize Futures for what it is -- proof that emo can be written for, and appeal to, adults.