Centrifugal force from a grunge pioneer
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder released solo album Earthling on February 11, 2022. Reminiscing bits of Pearl Jam’s ’90s roots, Vedder’s raspy baritone portrays a wide array of intentional emotional displays. Earthling grapples with tough topics such as finding hope, coming to terms with grief while finding the strength to pull through and how to use emotions instead of letting the human condition take over. While stretching himself as a known grunge pioneer and a respectable artist overall, sitting with this album was a tough listen. There is an appreciation for the sentiments, but there aren’t that many fuzzy feelings deriving from the musical aspects of the album.
Earthling’s opening track “Invincible” asks the listener “Can you hear, Are we clear? Cleared for liftoff, takeoff?” Vedder brushes the dust off the topic with an old-school sound. He puts it out there to challenge oneself to look at all that we have, not in terms of materialism but in terms of something bigger than us. “We got the heavens, we got the earth and in between, we got big surf.”
“Invincible” leads into the song “Power of Right” which starts out with a gruffer guitar riff. Vedder’s vocals lean more towards a raspy growl that piques interest, but quickly turns into something softer and springier, creating a meshed transition that isn’t fully compatible within the same song.
“Fallout Today” is another song that adds very little to the overall album. It is fairly repetitive, creating plenty of moments of lull and there is no speed or progression to allow the listener to transition from the beginning to end of the song.
The track “Good and Evil” starts with an eerie cuckoo clock that launches into a catchy contemplation of what happens when an individual stumbles upon a look into someone else’s mirror. Lyrically exploring a seemingly simple human emotion that turns out to be a little more complex, this track sticks to its guns without steering far from its sound and intentions. It is probably one of the only tracks on this album with undiluted promise.
With some redemption, Vedder duets with Sir. Elton John on “Picture.” The duo’s voices blend into a beautiful melody that captures the essence of hope and unity. Each powerhouse backing the other’s vocals creates a masterful work that leaves a strong feeling of optimism in its wake.
Despite the title, Earthling manages to give off an almost otherworldly feeling. There is a certain quality that, with full admittance and some doubt, keeps the intrigue to want to listen to the very end in order to see where exactly Vedder plans on taking his audience. Vedder also happens to throw in some surprises with moments of clever lyricism, almost as if he is telling a secret rhyme, all while making sure to keep the preferred listener captivated with versatile sounds.
If expecting a banger rock n’ roll album, the probability of appreciating this album would be slim. With respect to the ultimate capacity of Vedder’s talents, Earthling swims too deep with ordinary. While Earthling holds spectacular concepts and a few shining moments of potential, the overall sound of the album is boring and repetitive.