Album Review: Pearl Jam
Label: Universal / Island
It would seem that age has not only finally caught up with the members of Pearl Jam, but tapped them on the shoulder, extended its hand and made a formal introduction to the Seattle rockers as they bring out their ninth studio album, Backspacer. Despite still proving that they’ve got what it takes to enrapture a massive live crowd, Backspacer doesn’t even come close to matching up to Pearl Jam’s broad back catalogue.
It’s not that the band have taken a step back, but there is an unavoidable sense that Vedder and co know the formula and have decided to stick to it pretty rigidly here. There’s nothing on the album that jerks the tears quite like ‘Jeremy’ did, despite Vedder’s inimitable croaky vocals and the energetic opening gambit of ‘Gonna See My Friend’ and ‘Got Some’ lack the nigh on perfect mix of spot on lyrics and rambunctious guitars of ‘Once’ and ‘Even Flow’. In fact, if anything they’re rather repetitive rock ‘n’ roll yarns that a bunch of uneducated garage kids would be frowned upon for churning out.
It’s an unavoidable fact that this album will be immediately judged next to not just Pearl Jam’s awesome back catalogue, but songs that helped define a generation of music in the 90s. In this respect Backspacer at times becomes a rather cruel joke, like the band are pissing on top of their greatest achievements for shits and giggles. It’s not even that the guys are too old to rock – there’s still a lot of energy running through the records veins, but it’s like watching a dog spend all day chasing its tail. There almost seems very little point to the whole thing, other than testing the limits of a fanboy’s patience.
I like to hope that this wasn’t the case when the members of PJ sat down to plot this release. It’s the only thing that makes Backspacer just about sufferable (although the horrible ‘Just Breathe’ comes close to being blamed for murder), as well as it’s fairly brief running time. But at the end of the day the unavoidable fact is that this is a band that has either run out of ideas, or no longer really feels the need to perform at their best to sell records. And once that attitude sinks in, it’s a pretty slick slide down into resentment and disrespect. It’s just as well they still kick it live; otherwise this may have been a somewhat more vitriolic review.
Originally published on The Line Of Best Fit.