Review Summary: You'll sit alone forever, if you wait for the right time...
If you can pull yourself out from under the weight of your shock for just a second, there's an explanation for all this madness. You're blinded by the word 'classic' beside this 5 rating; you're blinded by how The Middle conquered high-school radio stations for half a decade; you're blinded by something
. But that's sort of to be expected - I mean, pop-punk is a vilified genre at the best of time, but by 2004 the pretense that Jimmy Eat World were anything other than pop-rock was a shallow one. The riffs occasionally tend towards the heavier end of the spectrum; edges of their sound touch on a gritty or raw perspective, but there's no doubt where these songs are headed: the radio. Have you ever listened closely enough to Kill to pick up on the piano that accompanies its acoustic-guitar intro passage? On Futures, Jimmy Eat World aren't even trying
to be punk. Or edgy. Or alternative. And that's why it's incredible.
Every second that Futures plays for is direct in its accessible, spirited approach and brilliantly executed. Vocalist Jim Adkins might possess the most recognisable tone in whole of rock music; sincere, always reflective, he swings between angry and broken like a teenager. Hey, look; there's your audience: overly romantic teenagers with a love for melody and one-liners. Even if you're not one any more, you used to be, and parts of Futures hit home whoever they're talking to: Work's "Don't think we're not serious / When's it ever not?"
will leave a hollow sentiment in the stomach of anybody that's ever been a bit scared of love. Polaris, meanwhile, tells the story of lovers torn apart at the seams by distance and long-distance journeys. And the record's closer, the frankly sublime 23, is heartbreaking in the way it narrates every facet of growing up, from regret to risk-taking.
But the lyricism's only a small part of it; every face that Futures shows is just as effective and touching. Drugs Or Me fades out amid static and a light, high-pitched piano that totally evokes the hopelessness that the song describes; oftentimes, electric guitars sit alongside acoustic ones, pristinely produced with a soft, atmospheric finish that renders every second a little bit more epic than it would otherwise be. Rick Burch's bass and Zach Lind's drums are basically the reason why Futures as a whole transcends the usual limits of pop-rock. Mid-tempo tracks like Polaris would drag tediously were it not for Lind's creativity and the bridge's audible bassline, and on the louder tracks like Pain and Nothingwrong they fuse with the upbeat, slightly dark guitars to drive momentum through every single passage. There's not a moment here that passes by lazily; whether it's the stomping politics of the title-track, the heartfelt balladry of Kill, or the insane climax-construction that is 23, there isn't a moment without something to keep you hooked.
Ah - 23. Perfectly placed and irreplacable, it suffices in qualitative analysis to say that if the closing track to Futures fails to affect you then there's something very wrong with your soul. Standing proud at over 7 minutes, it's a song which takes its time, building through numerous transitions before the vocals kick in after over a minute and a half. Swirling guitars and tension-packed basslines guide Adkins on his honest self-reflection, which borders on self-loathing and hits home incredibly hard. With an unpredictable structure which drops where you'd expect it to peak and maintains its suspense right through to a powerful crescendo, 23 is the most blatant proof available that Jimmy Eat World are masters of pop-rock songwriting, evoking a genuine emotional response and at the same time penning unforgettable hooks and melodies with every tool available.
Honesty and passion are the cornerstones of Futures, a record which takes everything a maligned genre has to offer and maxes it out with astounding results. Gut-wrenching guitar lines, rhythmic releases and poignant songwriting are not even consistent; they're constant. Every corner has something to smile about. As Adkins says in the sublime Kill, "You kill me; you always know the perfect thing to say."
Musically, vocally, structurally, that just about sums it up; Futures is an album that simply gets it right once, then twice, then non-stop for 50 whole minutes. If you like pop-rock, and you haven't heard this album, you have absolutely no idea what you're missing.