With their 9th studio album, Pearl Jam have fully completed their transformation from over-looked geniuses to the band that everybody thinks they have been since Ten first stormed the charts in 1991. As a lifelong Pearl Jam fan, for some reason I had a pre-conceived notion of how this album would be. The hints were there from the last album and a live outing for some if the new material did not bode well. I can't tell you how disappointed it is to have my preconceptions at least partly confirmed.
Advance tracks Get Some and The Fixer certainly have hooks and catches, giving a certain radio-friendliness to them, much like any recent album from AC/DC or even The Rolling Stones - rather than the difficult-to-fit, anti-mainstream style that hung around grunge, making it so fresh and new in the early 90's.
Eddie Vedder injects the occasional attempt at enthusiasm with a whoop or a holler, while awkward drum fills patch the holes in the songwriting as the band try and add some urgency to the mundanity to most of the songs. Whether it was real or implied, much of Pearl Jam's attraction has long been built around the message, or implied narrative behind the lyrics. Here those messages are barely audible, instead opting for the gabba-gabba-hey enthusiam of bands like the Ramones - while Vedder's song writing and love-it-or-hate-it vocals are sadly underused.
There's an air of preparation here, as if song-writing duties have been distributed evenly amongst the rest of the band for some post-career nest building. I haven't seen the liner notes, but would suggest the faux Thin Lizzy of Johnny Guitar came from the pen of Mike McReady (update: wrong, it was Cameron & Gossard), while the Camero-driving pound of Get Some might be from bouncing bassist Jeff Ament (update: bingo).
There are a handful of highlights here, with Just Breathe providing a short break from the non-stop pace of the album's opening, although at best it sounds like an outtake from Vedder's excellent stripped-bare solo album. Unknown Thought and The End approach the band's full potential (both penned by Vedder), while Amongst The Waves manages to shake off its cheesy start to build into a decent epic.
This isn't a terrible album by any means - and judging by some surprisingly positive mainstream reviews I would suggest everything I like about the band is what turned the masses away. There are moments of promise amongst the riffs, but Backspacer's biggest curse is that it is just largely forgettable.
29th Sep 2009 - Tumblr2.5
The Point, Dublin
Into The Wild
I'm Not There [Music From The Motion Picture]
Just Like The Fambly Cat
Another touching Pixar tale from Pete Docter. Stylish and inspiring.
29th Dec 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Perfect Christmas movie that sails close to the wind of parody without getting swept away.
26th Dec 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Stirring, straight shooting, well rounded finale to a classic trilogy.
13th Dec 2020Read more 4.5 star reviews
Note perfect, brisk, entertainingly convoluted classic.
13th Dec 2020Read more 5 star reviews
Genre defining 80s classic that still hits all the right notes.
13th Dec 2020Read more 5 star reviews
Unsurprisingly slight, but the one thread of plot is held together by an enjoyable Bill Murray.
21st Nov 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Incredibly straightforward Clint drama, anchored by some great central performances.
10th Nov 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Not exactly imaginative re-imagining, but it gets the job done in the right spirit.
1st Nov 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Ambitious, stagey epic. Plenty of tropes and it falls in all the usual 1-take potholes.
27th Oct 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Thoughtful, stylish drama with a zen central performance.
17th Oct 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Stiff, poorly paced innovative film that hasn’t aged well.
11th Oct 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Inspiring, tightly scripted gem - overlooked by lockdown.
4th Oct 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Standard-issue airplane movie, with Joel Kinnaman standing in for Vin Diesel.
3rd Oct 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Sub LA Confidential gumshoe thriller - with an underplayed USP. Ed Norton misses again.
27th Sep 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Over explained threequel, that undermines a low key original.
18th Sep 2020Read more 2.5 star reviews
Intriguing, but generally incomprehensible sci-fi gobbledegook.
31st Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
The Next Level
Marginally less fun sequel, but still plenty of laughs.
16th Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Beautifully imagined and lovingly restored, but it still alternates between a snail's pace and feeling like a trailer edit.
12th Aug 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly enjoyable plane movie, though it owes a lot to the magnificent Copland.
8th Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Tension-free Bateman rom com. Lacking rom and com.
8th Aug 2020Read more 2 star reviews
Incredibly stylish and wannabe cerebral sci-fi, that’s ultimately a little thin.
19th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Underwhelming space drama that’s a bit too intimate and not very epic.
5th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Dire, tension-free postcode gang drama. Just add drama.
21st Jun 2020Read more 1 star reviews
Magnificent documentary, re-assembling the moon landing from beautifully remastered footage.
14th Jun 2020Read more 4 star reviews
The 8th slow-paced Tarantino pic. Literally half entertaining / boring.
24th May 2020Read more 2.5 star reviews
Entertaining Brit-com, though it’s a bit on-the-beaten-path for Danny Boyle.
13th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Mildly enjoyable, thoroughly forgettable Nick Hornby pic ...once you get past the contrived set up.
4th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Kid-friendly(ish), super fun superhero movie.
23rd Mar 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Impeccably realised remake, but it’s emotionally flat.
15th Mar 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Standard festival thriller, with some style and decent moments - but it’s all a bit thin.
10th Mar 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Surprisingly enjoyable, Guy Ritchie-fied Disney remake.
10th Mar 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Cookie cutter biography that could literally have been written from his Wikipedia page.
7th Mar 2020Read more 1.5 star reviews
Text book indie, literally days out of Sundance. Interesting until it gets a bit too wacky.
9th Feb 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Strong slice of 90s skate nostalgia. Slow and subtle.
8th Feb 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Considered character study that strays into pretentiousness here and there.
25th Jan 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Enthusiasticly directed sequence of unrelated musical set pieces.
31st Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Yet another biggest-battle-yet, with more than a passing nod to BTTF2.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Thoughtfully assembled montage doc.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Decent origin story, with charm and some 90s nostalgia.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
The Rise of Skywalker
Freestyle bouillabaisse with all the ingredients, but no chef.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Quintessential indie movie ...funded by Netflix. Great perfs, lovely camera work and solid direction.
22nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Superior modern thriller. Smart script and accomplished direction.
15th Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Long, slow, thoroughly enjoyable loose jam through Scorsese/DeNiro/Pacino/Pesci/Keitel’s greatest hits.
2nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Batman via Scorsese, in impeccably art directed, neatly packaged origin story.
28th Nov 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly strong sequel that gets going after a convoluted start.
24th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Casual drama from Clint Eastwood, with the man himself anchoring things through a charming turn.
16th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Luscious period drama. Beautifully put together - like Wolf Hall+.
3rd Nov 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Throw away Breaking Bad expansion piece with little tension or jeopardy.
13th Oct 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews