Jimmy Eat World, 'Futures' (Interscope)

6
Futures
Critical Mass
Label: Interscope

by Zac Crain

There are basically two ways to handle sudden success: Take it as a mandate to chase your muse, doin' it for art and adventure, or spend the rest of your days obliging folks who want to hear you play your first hit single all night long. Two years after the massive pop hit "The Middle" and its young-people-in-their-BVDs video catapulted them from best-kept-secrecy to MTV ubiquity, Jimmy Eat World are at that crossroads. Rumor had it they were working on a less accessible album, one that would separate the true believersfrom the kids who just came for the underwear party. Instead, they've given those true believers what they probably wanted all along: an album roughly divided into songs that have their cake (like 2001's breakthrough Bleed American) and eat it too(like 1999's more staunchly emo Clarity).

The first half of the record is more or less a shot-for-shot remake of Bleed American. It's front-loaded with potential hit singles, all snappy guitars and sweetly lovelorn choruses, from the bad breakup of "Just Tonight..." to the better-wake-up of "The World You Love." After that, though, the script flips abruptly. On "Drugs or Me" and "Polaris," the band return to the poignant, pulsing sound of Clarity , the album that inspired sensitive young IMers around the world to sign on as SkyHarbor82 andTable4Glasses. Singer Jim Adkins whispers when he wants to scream, and the guitars generally follow suit, breaking the restraining order only once ("Nothingwrong"'s lockstep lambasting).

It all leads up to "23," with its swirling backdrop and hopelessly devoted lyrics ("No one else will have me like you do"). It'd be a great spring-fling slow-dance tune, if anyone wearing rented polyester or taffeta were willing to sway back and forth throughout its seven-minute running time. Jimmy Eat World might still be stuck in "The Middle" a year from now, but this album's more thoughtful homestretch at least suggests the possibility of alternate futures.

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