Review Summary: Don’t give away the end…the one thing that stays mine.
Jimmy Eat World has always been a band that has been difficult for me to classify. Sure, they are pop-rock, pop-punk, alt-rock, emo…but the genre tag isn’t what has left me wondering. The majority of the time, I ponder what the band really means to me. I’ve grown up with Jimmy Eat World, from the raw but sincere Clarity
all the way up to their most recent effort, Invented
. Sometimes, it is the upbeat optimism of a song like ‘The Middle’ that evokes my affection, while other times the more desperate, meditative tracks such as ‘Mixtape’ or ‘Polaris’ conjure up feelings that I thought I left behind me years ago. Throughout the past decade, I have grown up a lot – I started and finished high school, moved to college, fell in love, had my heart broken, and drank until I couldn’t feel the pain anymore…then repeated the process until I graduated, only to find that the cycle couldn’t be broken. Every step of the way, Jimmy Eat World has been there with me – like a best friend who shares my optimism during moments of joy and broods with me during times of sorrow. And just like I have found out with some of my closest friends, the upbeat/fun times are great, but it is the low points that really bring you together. Jimmy Eat World is no exception, and for that I have Futures
may be the deepest and most contemplative album in Jimmy Eat World’s discography. It covers an entire spectrum of emotions, from the silver-lined opening track ‘Futures’ all the way to the heart wrenching closer, ‘23.’ It definitely leans towards the side of depression, with serious topics like drug abuse, breakups, and self-loathing all permeating the album’s theme. ‘Pain’, the first single and easily the record’s most memorable song, describes the benefits and the drawbacks of self-medication through drugs and alcohol. Lead vocalist Jim Adkins wails the line, “It takes my pain away” overtop of an urgent drum beat that drives the rhythm of the entire song, while a well-placed guitar solo towards the final minute rounds the track out as one of the best Jimmy Eat World has ever written. ‘Drugs or Me’, a six-minute ballad, pays tribute to the loss of a friend to drugs. We aren’t talking about death here, but rather the loss of personality that metaphorically gave that person life. It features some of the most touching lyrics to be found on any Jimmy Eat World album: “If only you could see / the stranger next to me / You promise you promise that you're done / But I cant tell you from the drugs.” Compared to its predecessor, Bleed American
, this album may seem more easy going, but I promise you that the themes of the music have never contained a more pertinent, raw meaning
Even the catchiest song on Futures
packs a heavy dose of sentiment, as ‘Work’ hears Adkins utter the line “Don't think we're not serious, when's it ever not?” The words are relatively simple, and could mean any number of things…but I always understood it as a reflection of a fear to commit to someone; thus the song should hit close to home with anyone who has been cheated out of true love – either by their own doing or by the actions of another. Then there is ‘Kill’, which expresses similar but far more obvious parallels in its confession, “I loved you and I should have said it, but tell me just what has it ever meant?” With equal parts regret and frustration, the song channels exactly how it feels to look back and wish you had spoken up back when you had the opportunity. It isn’t the only time that Futures
finds its hands reaching towards the past, but it is certainly the most poignant.
The best track on the album, and perhaps in Jimmy Eat World’s entire discography, is saved for last though. The epic, towering ‘23’ steals the show with its shimmering production, gradual build, and truer-than-ever lyrics. Commencing with a strummed bass line and echoing, airy acoustic guitars, ‘23’ grows within itself in a way that is slightly predictable but feels so natural that you won’t care. As the drums are introduced with just the slightest bit of subtlety, Adkins’ voice enters the mix and pure emotion takes over. Every single line in the song is quotable, but you might find that the crystal-clear articulation of lyrics such as, “You’ll sit alone forever if you wait for the right time” are relatable to your feelings of anxiety, and that “Don’t give away the end…the one thing that stays mine” comforts that very same feeling of apprehension. As a whole, it is a masterful closing track and a fitting reminder that no matter what happens in life, nobody can take away your future.
Everyone has moments where they are forced to stop and evaluate their lives. It may be human nature that we prefer those moments to be ones of elation – a new job acquisition, the blossoming of a fresh romance – but frequently, if not most times, we only pause to ask ourselves these questions when we are faced with turmoil. It’s when our jobs, relationships, and personal expectations fail us that we glance around and wonder “is it just me?” For the past six years, I have been wondering that a lot. The questions I have been asking myself force me to look towards the future, which is something that I have never been comfortable doing. Futures
– an album that is not only about keeping an eye on tomorrow, but also putting one foot in front of the other until you get there – helps with that.