Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam have a knack of sounding like a muscle car cruising down an empty road in Montana. Masters of the key/pace change, they often shift up and down gears, speeding up and slowing down but always sticking to the road.

While Life Wasted and World Wide Suicide are great openers (except for the title "World Wide Suicide" - definitely a case for 'keep the title out of the lyrics') rocking all the shift change tricks, it's not until six songs in that we get a real change of style - with Parachutes. Similar in tone to the Stones' track of the same name, this great little number is much more in the vein of 1996's No Code.

Things get more more varied on what would have been side two in the vinyl days, with Gone being the gem on the album. It's Pearl Jam at their best, using a simple quiet start to build up the emotion and sound into an awesome wall of noise.

Army Reserve is one song that doesn't quite click, somehow sounding like the U2-style jangling guitar was written separately from the lyrics, but the album finishes with two excellent tracks. Come Home sounds like a cover of a lost classic by Smokey Robinson or Otis Redding and is the band at their best. Inside Job, written by guitarist Mike McCready, is a moody slow burner. Staying just the right side of Dire Straits, the song would fit well on a movie soundtrack and brings the album to a worthy close.

The album is definitely a democratic effort and the input of the entire band leans the sound down the more conventional end of the Pearl Jam spectrum - generally sounding more like Yield or Riot Act than Vitalogy or No Code. That's never a criticism with these guys however and although not as lyrical as some of their work it's a solid, thoroughly enjoyable rock album from a band totally assured of their craft.