It's unlikely that Jimmy Eat World will reach the same heights with 'Futures' that they achieved with 'Bleed American'. However, it's the better record of the two. The logic? 'Futures' is a secular, dense, brooding album of 11 tracks that hearkens back to the days of the band's sophomore major-label album 'Clarity' moreso than their platinum-selling follow-up. That's not to say that the tracks aren't immediate; lead single 'Pain' is a snarling 3-minute gem about paranoia and drug-culture (topically similar to Bleed American's Title Track), follow-up 'Work' is an upbeat highlight, and Just Tonight is a vivaciously danceable number. Even so, most of these tracks have a dark, almost sinister undertone; 'You fill me up but just to watch me break' Adkins proclaims on 'Kill'. Jimmy Eat World have been heralded as 'Kings of Emo', but Adkins finds a voice on Futures that maintains its sincerity and catharsis without branching into screamo territory, distancing Jimmy Eat World from the modern-day emo scene of acts like The Used, Taking Back Sunday and Thrice.
The band have never been shy of releasing a few epic 6-minute-plus numbers-- the unforgettable 'Goodbye Sky Harbor' and yearning 'Just Watch the Fireworks' to name but two-- and Futures deals another great hand in this area: the piano-centred ballad of 'Drugs for Me' and the epic album-closer '23', the latter in serious contention for the best thing the band have yet released. They've even strayed into blatant political territory with the title track, as well as the obscure connotations towards old Label 'Capitol' in 'NothingWrong' ('Turn them off/Our blacklist singers/Don't ask why/Don't cry; don't make a scene').
If there's any problem with Futures it's most probably due to its slight over-production, which is mostly prominent on 'Kill'. Thankfully the song has become a staple on their recent tour setlist, seeing it return to its raw form. Indeed, you may be better served buying the Deluxe 2CD Edition of Futures; the second CD features demos of every track on the album from various stages in their conception.
Sure, nothing says media hit like 'The Middle', but 'Futures' harnesses the side of Jimmy Eat World wanting to be taken more seriously...and what it reveals, listen after listen, is that desire unfolding, and it's a startling thing to behold. My album of 2004.