Nebulous since its late ’80s genesis, emo had most recently evolved into a sad guy poetry slam reserved exclusively for the pop-punk/post-hardcore set. Bands with three-tiered names poured lyrical anguish all over strident power chords, and grownups just didn’t get it. Jimmy Eat World tries to have it both ways on Futures. Their name still rocks the three-way jibberish, and the album sometimes sounds like it’s tugging those emo heartstrings. But with its slick and enormous arrangements, blandly meaningful lyrics (“Stay with me/You’re the one I need”), propensity for ballads, and baseless nods to a harder sound (“Nothingwrong”), Jimmy Eat World have really made an emo album that’s sanitized and safe for an impatient adult world. “Just Tonight…” meshes the pep of the band’s 2003 hit “The Middle” with vintage Pearl Jam tension; it’s the tale of a one-night stand for everyone who’s grown out of them. Liz Phair guests on the Weezerific “Work,” which is telling, since Liz’s own recent makeover was a clever co-opting of youth rebellion for a thirtysomething world. Jimmy Eat World gets stuck in a similarly awkward spot on Futures, because they can’t decide whether they’re doing it for the kids or hitting on their moms.

Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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