A Strong Sound From An Enduring Band
Pearl Jam’s self-titled release is their first since fulfilling their contract with Epic Records, their home since 1991’s Ten, and theyâ€šÃ„Ã´re celebrating their status as a free agent with as solid an album as ever. Kicking off with five concise rock songs, each averaging three-and-a-half minutes, the album is in many ways a primer of “How to Write a Rock Song.” Get five guys, a verse, chorus, and bridge, some solid riffs, topical lyrics, and a dash of lead guitar fireworks, and voilâˆšâ€ â€šÃ„Ã¬ a rock song!Although these songs hold up well on your iPod, most are better live, infused with the reckless spontaneity of one of the greatest live acts around. For these reasons, the highlights of the album are those songs not adhering to this formula. Following the initial five-song burst is the sweet, heartsick “Parachutes,” which uses its plucked notes to emphasize the simplicity of unconditional love. Further along is “Gone,” starting with almost dirge-like heaviness only to be uplifted as the character, weighed down by economic woe, gets in his car and leaves town â€šÃ„Ã¬ a theme familiar from lyricist Eddie Vedder.
The songs continue to strike a balance, switching from the inspiring lilt of “Army Reserve,” (co-written by Damien Echols of the imprisoned West Memphis Three) to the 1950s-style lover’s plea of “Come Back.” Whatâ€šÃ„Ã´s truly a delight is the lengthy final track written by lead guitarist Mike McCready. As the album closer, “Inside Job” is the most introspective song, for the majority of the tracks focus on how politics affect the American family. The music builds on a soft strumming of acoustic guitar overlaid with quieted elongated notes from an electric, punched up at times with dense piano chords struck at the right moments. Vedder sings seeking to almost hide behind the sounds created around him. He does McCready’s lyrics â€šÃ„Ã¬ about self-betterment â€šÃ„Ã¬ justice, performing them earnestly and plaintively, giving them and McCready their due.
Pearl Jam has proven themselves one of the most enduring acts of modern rock, together now seventeen years. This album is a veritable blueprint of how they’ve achieved such standing: They know what works, and theyâ€šÃ„Ã´re proud to show it.