The last Jimmy Eat World album, Bleed American, started off with three of the best tracks the band had ever recorded. The blast of well formed angst of “Bleed American” followed by the driving sugary sweet pop of both “A Praise Chorus” (which managed to name check both Joan Jett and They Might Be Giants) and “The Middle.” Their newest, Futures, starts off with three of their worst. Their last album expressed a lyrical maturity that was fitting for the lean, intense pop punk the band was producing. On Futures‘ second track, “Just Tonight…” the band spouts locker room cliché (“put out / put up / or stay at home”), which manages to work perfectly with music that belongs on a Linkin Park album. I don’t think anyone could explain why, but this album just isn’t any good.
The problems with this album can’t even be pinpointed on one element- they’re all across the map. The song titles, such as “Kill,” “Work,” “Pain,” and, this isn’t a joke, “Drugs Or Me” might give one an idea about their depth, but that would be giving the band too much credit. The lyrical depth of this release is equal to a leaky kiddie pool. “Pain” steals everything but the lyrics from the title track of their last album, Bleed American, but while that song’s lyrics about medication (“I’m not crazy because I take the right pills every day”) were visceral, here they appear to be half-whine, half-excuse (The chorus consists the chant “It takes my pain away!”). The band that managed to transcend clichés here spouts lines that would make Hoobastank cringe, such as “I’ll say it straight and plain / I know I’ve made mistakes / I’ve always been afraid,” from “Polaris.” Love songs can be truly beautiful, and Jimmy Eat World have written some pretty extraordinary ones, but their reliance on clichés ruin each and every generic attempt on this album.
And the music, God, the music. The band doesn’t so much sound bored on Futures as they do out of ideas. Jimmy Eat World have proved on their previous albums that you don’t need a lot of chords to make a memorable riff. This album adds on a key addendum to that rule- you may not need a lot of chords, but you need to make sure they’re the right ones. There is no memorable riff on the entire album- nothing worthy of singing in the shower, or even humming as it’s playing. And even worse, the album is overproduced, with multi-tracked vocals that should be nowhere near any album, much less a Jimmy Eat World album, much less one with as little substance as this one. Pop-punk is fast, immediate music that should not have a wall of sound in front of it. Even the instrumentation is sub-par. There are no guitar solos, a concept that would help break up the monotony of these songs, and the drumming and bass-work are 4/4 punk by the numbers.
The worst thing about this album, really, is not that it’s lousy. It’s, still, in its sorry state, probably the second best mainstream pop-punk album to come out this year, behind the excellent album by Green Day. The album is so entirely frustrating for a different reason: because where their past albums made pop punk that would stay with you, each and every song on Futures is predictable, replaceable, and worst of all for the band, entirely forgettable.