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
Dry As A Bone / Rehab Doll
I'm Not There [Music From The Motion Picture]
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