Futures often conjures the hookfests of the Goo Goo Dolls. This is hardly a pejorative comparison, emo elitists: Before vocalist Johnny Rzeznik morphed into a doppelgänger of Jon Bon Jovi, Goo had the heart of a brash bar band. Futures practically booms with such blackened sugar. Somersaulting riffs, mind-expanding choruses, and dreamy, Anglophile-pleasing textures -- the latter influence likely courtesy of new producer Gil Norton -- drive midtempo janglers and starry-eyed ballads.
Singer Jim Adkins even channels Rzeznik's gruff singing style on the soaring title track and harmony-encrusted "Work." Still, JEW's focus on layering and expanding its sonic palette doesn't include rehashing the jagged chords of past hits "The Middle" or "Sweetness"; the occasional power-pop solo, jolt of spark-plug guitar, or whip-cracking rhythm is as close as Futures gets to modern-rock mayhem. Unfortunately, by mirroring the Goo Goo Dolls' ascension to VH1 poster children, the band shows signs of diminishing returns: a tendency toward syrupy earnestness (bad teenage poetry -- "Kiss me with your cherry lipstick") and overly melodramatic tunes (the seven-minute, string-laden torch song "23") that seem primed for a Meg Ryan weeper flick.