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    Pearl Jam

    Ten 8 ( 1991 )
    Once / Even Flow / Alive / Why Go / Black / Jeremy / Oceans / Porch / Garden / Deep / Release

    Ah, the date, the date. 1991, the year Nirvana broke the underground out of the underground and into the mainstream. Only actually, Pearl Jam played a bigger part in keeping it there - bridging the gap between the rawer, punkier Nirvana and more 'traditional' hard rock acts. Indeed, parts of 'Ten' recall Led Zeppelin in places, just in the way the instrumentation has been used, separated and combined back together. Being able to make out each part and each musician and then marvel at the whole combination. Pearl Jam never really fit easily into the grunge scene - the sometimes 'mushy' sound grunge acts achieved isn't 'achieved' by Pearl Jam. These guys quite clearly are very good musicians, and their level of performances is one of the most enjoyable factors when listening to 'Ten'. The other guys were damn lucky to have found Eddie Vedder though, as far as I'm concerned. His voice soars over the instrumentation - a strong voice able to fill a stadium and capture a huge crowd of people. 'Ten' is the kind of album you find yourself playing over and over again very easily - the kind of album you can really get into. It sounds great turned up loud - but one factor of mine that perhaps goes against hard rock acts - is how good does it sound listened to at a whisper? You may be thinking that kind of defeats the point, but it's a method of listening to an album to gauge whether the actual songs are any good, and just not all hot air. Listened to quietly, 'Ten' kinda sucks, to be honest with you. All that remains is samey sounding guitars, few memorable guitar melodies and the voice of Eddie Vedder, which sounds a whole lot less 'musical' all of a sudden. On the otherhand, turn the fucker back up - and you can be easily impressed. His vocals are smooth and powerful on 'Even Flow' especially, taking the song to a level it wouldn't otherwise have achieved. 'Alive' is anthemic, good, though a little overlong. I do love the guitar parts on 'Alive' though, guitar parts containing appreciable melody. 'Why Go' has a nifty guitar solo, the opener 'Once' is a blasting Rock song - and 'Why Go', after the solo has finished, impresses with Eddie singing "Why go home...." over and over again - in very fine voice, to close the song.

    'Black' is a sweeter softer song that aids album variety, helps the albums flow hugely. 'Jeremy' has a good guitar introduction that gets you interested, listened to loud or listened to at any other volume, too. Eddie Vedder again impresses vocally, rising above the music. 'Oceans' and garden both contain accomplished lead vocal performances - you've got the album on in the background. You're doing other stuff. It's a sunny day and the sunshine is blaring through your window to join the music blaring through the room, out of the window, into the surrounding neighbourhood. You feel pretty pleased and happy, you're with your friends and Pearl Jam are sounding particularly great! 'Deep' irritates me, 'Porch' irritates me. Standard, generic hard rock stuff with little to distinguish themselves, although 'Porch' in particular contains a good guitar solo. Not bad stuff, just not anything to blow you away, perhaps? Ah, go on. Be blown away anyway.. I don't care! I'd rather the closing 'Release' wasn't nearly seven minutes long, but Eddie keeps you listening, like him or loathe him - he keeps you there. Overall 'Ten' is a good album, I reckon. Professional and passionate sounding - but not sounding like, or particularly pleasing - a group of Nirvana fans or fellow, more alternatively minded, grunge fans. They wanted something with a little more screaming, and discordance. But maybe Pearl Jam wasn't for them? Maybe Pearl Jam was for a bunch of other people?

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    Simon B slb23@shaw.ca
    A good debut album by a great band. I think only about half the album works well. (I don't really listen to the second half.) my favourite songs are: "Even Flow", "Alive", "Black", and "Jeremy". 7/10

    Vs ( 1993 )
    Go / Animal / Daughter / Glorified G / Dissident / W.M.A / Blood / Rearviewmirror / Rats / Elderly Woman Behind The Counter / Leash / Indifference

    Pearl Jam return with a slightly rawer sound than before, immediately apparent as soon as 'Go', well, goes! Crunching drums, fast, furious vocals and guitars - Eddie screams and this is pretty thrilling stuff! Pearl Jam met fame headlong, celebrating and revelling in it, whilst at the same time seemingly responding to some critics that found 'Ten' a little too smooth. 'Animal' blasts the speakers apart - and Pearl Jam sound so confident here. 'Glorified G' contains a guitar hook that's very radio friendly - with all this moving and grooving and screaming - they don't forget that people dug them for their catchy choruses and radio friendly nature. 'Glorified G' sounds like pop/rock, rather than grunge/rock, or hard rock. Still, Eddie Vedder gives it his customary all, whatever the style of song. The drummer gets his turn in the spotlight come the introduction to 'W.M.A.'. Rolling, undulating drums parts, the bass comes in. Okay, guys. We knew you fuckers could play, get on with it already! Jeez. Ah, guitar, vocals! Ah, a song that goes absolutely nowhere - just like a couple of other songs here, 'Daughter' and the aimless jamming of 'Rats' in particular. Still, we're back to more raucous and furious material with the blasting 'Blood' which previews their third album. Dig the funky guitar here, my my my! Eddie Vedder mentions spills and sponges, the guitars blast - stop and start. "Blooooooood!" screams Eddie. You've gotta love it, really.

    Things pick up here, you know? The likes of 'Rearviewmirror' are clear steps forward from 'Ten', yet 'Vs' falls just short of 'Ten', not being so easy to appreciate from beginning to end. 'Vs' is far more diverse, with few two songs sounding the same as each other - but the songs aren't quite as good as 'Ten'. The sound is more pleasing to me personally - comes across more naturally. Take 'Rearviewmirror'. It sounds together, yet loose around the edges, and indeed, edgy. Talking about diversity, 'Elderly Woman Behind The Counter' meets the Led Zep comparisons, with Pearl Jam going all folky on us, but not unattractively so. 'Leash' and 'Indifference' wrap up the album, the former with a particularly enjoyable guitar to open, the latter with a soft, very quiet feel - dominated by Eddie Vedder in ballad, confessional, personal mode. Not unattractive, not at all. Much like the album as a whole. Oooh, dig the organ parts in 'Indifference'. 'Indifference' doesn't rock, at all - but it is quality stuff.

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    Vitalogy ( 1994 )
    Last Exit / Spin The Black Circle / Not For You / Tremor Christ / Nothingman / Whipping / Pry, To / Corduroy / Bugs / Satans Bed / Better Man / Aye Davanita / Immortality / Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me

    An album that challenges what Pearl Jam had become, challenged preconceptions about them. Easily their rawest and loudest moment to-date and actually, upon first hearing 'Spin The Black Circle' played on the radio ( strangely, all of a sudden some stations dropped Pearl Jam from their playlists ) I became a fan of the group for the first time. Ah, a first love! You never forget a first love, do you? You can dig, later loves much more - spend the rest of your life with a later love But, a first love, there's something about it. Do you remember the first ever time you heard and fell for Nirvana? Led Zeppelin? The Smiths?? Okay, so that last one wasn't for Pearl Jam fans, but you get the idea. Ah! Back to 'Spin The Black Circle' - I knew there was SOME reason I was here! "SPIN, SPIN!", the guitar goes everywhere, the song goes 200 miles an hour - loads of great stuff happens, and all happens within two minutes, forty seven seconds. Pearl Jam actually have thrashing, dirty guitars, oh yes! The scene is set with 'Last Exit' sounding immediately odd, sounding like Jazz musicians tuning up for the first ten seconds, before a huge ( and hugely great ) riff comes in. 'Not For You' sounds like Nirvana in places, suddenly Pearl Jam have to carry the 'grunge' burden all alone? Kurt has gone?? Well, they didn't need to, and probably didn't even concern themselves with such a thing, although they seem like the kind of band that WOULD concern themselves with such a thing. Ah, 'Tremor Christ' is good stuff. Stabbing, simple riff to open, joined by bass playing melody. Drums, and then Eddie. Pearl Jam sound looser, less out to impress people by showing what great musicians they are, Eddie sinks into the overall sound yet still impresses, and Pearl Jam impress. Will that do?

    'Vitalogy' falls short of being a classic album, because it's too long. Fifty something minutes for a raw, heavy emotional album? Drop fifteen minutes, drop filler like 'Pry, To' and the last couple of songs here. 'Immortality' is okay, actually - but we don't want to sit here for fifty something minutes, do we? Could we drop 'Bugs'? I wouldn't, Pearl Jam weird out, an accordion enters the fray and Pearl Jam sound like they've been listening to Tom Waits all of a sudden, obviously a very good thing. We could drop 'Aye Davantita' I guess, which sounds like a summer of love thing - what were those crazy guys smoking anyway??! A-hem, yes. Well, 'Vitalogy' is a great album. The length isn't really a serious issue, cos most of what's here is good stuff, but you know. A classic is a classic for a reason, not because it just has a bunch of nifty songs on it. Did that make sense? No? Well, you get what i'm drifting at. No? FUCK YOU!

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    Readers Comments

    Jens Würfele wuerfele22@t-online.de
    9 - This was my first Pearl Jam record too. I like all songs except "Bugs", "Pry, To" and the closing track. When I listen to the album I always skip these three songs. The rest is very good, "Last Exit" is a great opener and Corduroy is one of my favourite Pearl Jam songs. I think this is the best Pearl Jam album.

    Simon B slb23@shaw.ca
    I'm pretty sure this was my first Pearl Jam record too. This is a dark, mysterious and sometimes creepy album. The booklet is also strange. It's based on an actual home health encyclopedia published around 1900 called - you guessed it - "Vitalogy". It had sections on anatomy, diseases, herbal remedies, and moral advice. Anyway, this is my favourite Pearl Jam album. There are so many great songs on here: "Spin The Black Circle" (which is frantic, and it also won a Grammy), "Tremor Christ" (mysterious lyrics, one of my fav. songs on the album), "Nothing Man" (one of three ballads, passionate vocals from Eddie), "Corduroy" (a great rocker, "Satan's Bed" (funny lyrics), "Better Man" (another ballad, played on the radio a lot), "Immortality" (mysterious lyrics again, supposedly NOT about Kurt Cobain's death, as it was written before he died.) Despite the "weird" songs like "Bugs", "To Pry", and "Stupid Mop", this is IMHO probably the best Pearl Jam album. It may be a good! one to start with, too. 9/10.

    Ben Fishes_Inc@hotmail.com
    As a huge fan of In Utero, this feeds my need for agressive music.

    Spartacus spartacus6775@yahoo.com
    I loved this album. this is my favorite Pearl Jam record. I love those fillers like Pry To and such. i cant describe this strange attraction to Bugs. i guess sometimes u need something weird just for the sake of listening to something weird. this is a must have for Pearl Jam fans, even beginners

    No Code ( 1996 )
    Sometimes / Hail Hail / Who Are You / In My Tree / Smile / Off He Goes / Habit / Red Mosquito / Lukin / Present Tense / Mankind / I'm Open / Around The Bend

    Jack Irons makes his Pearl Jam debut on the drumstools, replacing the previous incumbent. He sounds good to me, but then, so does the entire album. After working with Neil Young on his 'Mirrorball' album, Pearl Jam return with a nice mixture of softer material mixed in with their usual harder hitting rock and incorporating folkier elements no doubt influenced by their time spent with Neil. There is a refreshingly clean sound to this album, partly which Pearl Jam always had - a sound that always did show off their great musicianship - but here this sound, shown off through more relaxed circumstances and material, really is noticeable. There's a craft to the songs on 'No Code', the trash and bite of 'Vitalogy' has gone. The early singles chart pleasing anthems of a 'Ten' has gone.... to be replaced just by a very solid set of intelligent and highly enjoyable material. Is that enough? This isn't a typical sounding Pearl Jam album, if such a thing exists. 'Vitalogy' wasn't a typical sounding Pearl Jam album, either though. Perhaps that's why I like these two particular Pearl Jam albums so much. Not that i'm suggesting I don't like the 'usual' Pearl Jam sound, I don't mean that. Just that I like to see a group progressing artistically and trying out different things. Eddie Vedder sounds in very voice throughout this set. The soft opening 'Sometimes' is noticeable for the genuinely passionate ( but not overly so, not obvious or shouting ) vocals of Eddie, plus a neat understated bass line. 'Hail Hail' rocks in a 'Vitalogy' kind of way, fast and dirty and with a stone gold chorus. 'Who Are You' introduces a folkier acoustic sound, very charming indeed and it sends shivers up my spine. Three winners to open, and it carries on. 'In My Tree', a quality faster rockier song, but retaining softer, acoustic textures.

    I dig the harmonica in 'Smile', a nod to Neil, maybe. Absolutely adore the quiet and quite beautiful acoustic tinged ballad 'Off He Goes', and so you see, I like this album, like everything here. Before I was familiar with Pearl Jam beyond the radio hits, I never even started to imagine they could do such a genuinely beautiful song such as 'Off He Goes'. 'No Code' is full of surprises like this. It's good to see them moving in different directions and not just doing what's exactly expected of them. The second side of the album is hardly much worse than the first side, either, although a couple of more average songs sneak in. Still, 'Habit' keeps the listener entertained and keeps the albums variety flowing, being just the second real harder hitting rock song here. Further highlights include the guitar work through the introduction to 'Red Mosquito', the almost punk riff that runs through 'Mankind' and the closing song 'Around The Bend' which features an attractive acoustic atmosphere and lovely sounding sincere vocals. Does it for me.

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    Jens Würfele wuerfele22@t-online.de
    9 - This was my first Pearl Jam record too. I like all songs except "Bugs", "Pry, To" and the closing track. When I listen to the album I always skip these three songs. The rest is very good, "Last Exit" is a great opener and Corduroy is one of my favourite Pearl Jam songs. I think this is the best Pearl Jam album.

    Simon B slb23@shaw.ca
    This is a good Pearl Jam album, though not as good as VITALOGY, IMHO. Favourite songs: "Hail Hail", "Who You Are", "Off He Goes", "Habit", "Red Mosquito", "Present Tense", "Around the Bend". 7.5/10

    john, county kildare john.j.doyle@nuim.ie
    8/10. i'm really starting to appreciate pearl jam and what they stand for. yeah, sometimes eddie rants a bit too much, but so fucking what??!! the guy is a class act, and that's what counts. it's been a while since i've heard this, but like all of their albums, i've yet to be disappointed. it's great that they've managed to be around for so long without ever wearing out their welcome, unlike some of their more overrated contemporaries. i really like the song "faithfull" but i don't know which album it's on. shozbot.

    Yield ( 1998 )
    Brain Of J / Faithfull / No Way / Given To Fly / Wishlist / Pilate / Do The Evolution / Red Dot / MFC / Low Light / In Hiding / Push Me Pull Me / All Those Yesterdays

    'Do The Evolution'? Is that some kind of funny novelty dance? Okay, so probably not, this IS Pearl Jam, after all. A strong start to this album, continuing the quality of the previous couple of albums. The brief thrash of 'Brain Of J' gives way to typical quality Pearl Jam with the anthemic 'Faithfull'. Loads of great playing, good guitar, good drums. Nice bass sounds in there somewhere. Eddie sings, "He goes, he goes, he goes.... we all believe". This is something to believe in. Pearl Jam being quite so SERIOUS and passionate a band gives you something to believe in too. With grunge a fading memory, it's easier to judge them for what they actually are, divorced from a scene with which they actually had little in common. What, Pearl Jam alongside Mudhoney? Doesn't work, does it? 'No Way' is another typically well played and well constructed Pearl Jam song whilst the single, 'Given To Fly' has hooks a plenty and a softer touch, carrying on from 'No Code' most attractively for me. A soft Vedder vocal and very nice guitar, very relaxed and pleasing - before moving into the chorus, a chorus upon which Eddie rises and rises to the occasion. I can imagine this song sounding absolutely fantastic played live. So, 'Yield' is another quality set of songs and performances? Well, yeah, although this time round it's rather akin to Pearl Jam by numbers, a professional set of songs reaching high standards but lacking surprise or innovation. Fans will love this, maybe not place it amongst their favourite Pearl Jam work, but being the devoted lot they are, cherish it anyway. Oh, one strange thing. There's an untitled song here labelled on the artwork and sleeve as just a 'red dot'. It's playful, silly and not really a song at all, but it's presence here is welcome. It's a lighter moment on a sometimes too overly sincere and workmanlike ( for Pearl Jam ) set of songs.

    'Wishlist' is a highlight for me. Eddie Vedder wishes we was, "a sportsmen, a messenger, the full moon shining" - good lyrics in the middle of a mid-tempo, semi-acoustic tune with strong bass playing and nice guitar parts. A nice song, altogether! 'Push Me Pull Me' is distorted, darker, far more tuneless than everything else here, being a rambling semi-coherent jam, but this is welcome too in varying the tone, atmosphere and sound of the 'Yield' album. The closing 'All Those Yesterdays' is rather standard kind of Pearl Jam song to close the album. An album of which it's equally hard to criticize or praise, it's just so unremarkable and un-newsworthy. But still, it is good stuff, just not great stuff. There are good songs and performances here, definitely. So, mark it down as a good album, why don't you?

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    Simon B slb23@shaw.ca
    Although it's kind of good, YIELD is not one of my favourite Pearl Jam discs. The music of "Given To Fly" is REALLY similar to "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin. Cool cover. Supposedly, there's a yield sign hidden in every picture in the booklet. Best songs: "Brain of J", "Given To Fly", "Wishlist", "Do The Evolution", "In Hiding". 5.5 out of 10.

    Binaural 6 ( 2000 )
    Breakerfall / Gods Dice / Evacuation / Light Years / Nothing As It Seems / Thin Air / Insignificance / Of The Girl / Grievance / Rival / Sleight Of Hand / Soon Forget / Parting Ways

    'Breakerfall' is sung so it sounds a bit like "break her fall", oh, those clever Pearl Jam lads! Oh, ok then. Let's be serious about it all, because Pearl Jam certainly always are. The opening two numbers rock and ROCK and Pearl Jam are rocking and a-rollin'. Etc. But, suddenly they sound so damn ordinary. A problem with the mixing or the recording? Perhaps, it's just that they suddenly sound like a bunch of top session guys playing for their latest pay-day. Pearl Jam never used to sound like that. Well, 'Evacuation' has Mr Vedder screaming a little, and doesn't it just seem that Pearl Jam have suddenly retreated seven years or so, back to the grunge era? Well, it does to me. Whether Pearl Jam fans wanted a good mix of songs, including slower material or not - whether they wanted the band to try to artistically progress or whether they wanted Pearl Jam to re-make 'Vs' or not - stuff like 'Light Years' far more impresses me that any of the rather trying opening three songs. 'Light Years' shows proper song-writing craft. Whether Pearl Jam fans want/wanted song-writing craft from the guys is another matter altogether. Suddenly, the effect of 'Light Years' is ruined a little by the arrival of the dirge, bluesy guitar showcase of the plodding 'Nothing As It Seems', and even though the faster material is very Pearl Jam by numbers, you start to wonder whether that's what they do best after all. Maybe you start to believe that's the case, rather than just the fact 'Binaural' lacks art, lacks craft - is very much 'a product', very much 'another' Pearl Jam album, and little more?

    Maybe we shouldn't try to read too much into any of this, and just put the whole thing down to the fact that Pearl Jam managed to produce a mediocre album, for whatever reason, and leave it at that? Following another slower song, 'Insignificance' picks up the pace and manages to be a genuinely good Pearl Jam rocker into the bargain. 'Of The Girl' moves again in the blues area, 'Grievance' is faster and hits harder, a bunch of half-formed excuses for songs finish the album, the most impressive of which is the closing 'Parting Ways' which includes some nice instrumentation - a viola, a cello. A little more ambitious, and 'Parting Ways' is a good moment.

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    Simon B slb23@shaw.ca
    Probably my least favourite Pearl Jam album. Eddie has said that he was suffering from writer's block while working on this album, and it shows.Cool cover and booklet, though. Best songs: "Grievance", "Light Years", "Nothing As It Seems" and "Thin Air." 4.5 out of 10.

    Riot Act 7 ( 2002 )
    Can't Keep / Save You / Love Boat Captain / Cropduster / Ghost / I Am Mine / Thumbing My Way / You Are / Got Right / Green Disease / Help Help / Bushleaguer / 1/2 Full / Arc / All Or None

    Whilst i'm here, i'll say something to you all about my 'relationship' with Pearl Jam, for want of a better word. When they first appeared, me in all my 'indie cool' hated their guts. I wasn't even particularly fond of Nirvana or 'Nevermind', although I liked 'Bleach' a lot. I liked 'Mudhoney' and adored The Pixies. None of which has anything to do with Pearl Jam of course, but it gives you a little background. As i've stated earlier in this page, 'Vitalogy' was some sort of transformation in how I viewed Pearl Jam. I actually got all the other albums much later than that one - I was still reluctant. Over the past few months of writing this page even, however, i've developed a new found respect for Pearl Jam - and this time, that definitely is the correct word. I'm not overwhelmed by them - but these guys really are damn fine musicians. Okay, so I didn't find 'Binaural' so aurally pleasing, but nearly everything else has received a more than respectable grade, and so it is with 'Riot Act'. The music and writing is a clear step back ( forwards ) from 'Binaural' which sounded strangely rushed in places, although probably wasn't. I don't know. I don't know everything, i'm just some guy, you know? Don't have two heads, i'm not insane ( except at weekends ). So? Well, 'Riot Act' has plenty to be impressed by, but I don't by any means love 'Riot Act', and i'm not exactly excited about it. It's familiar territory for Pearl Jam - there isn't a single surprise here. That's not good, I look for surprises in music. Well, surprises or good writing, writing that's so good it doesn't matter whether it's new or not. I look for a sound that's pleasing to me personally. Don't we all? Reviewing albums isn't a science, despite what some would want you to believe. It's ( nearly ) purely subjective. That doesn't matter. I started this site wanting to share my views on music. That's it. I never dreamt at the time i'd one day be reviewing the likes of Pearl Jam. I'd have been happy reviewing half a dozen of my favourite artists, but somehow it ( my site ) and I, grew.

    I don't know why i'm rambling on like this. Maybe because 'Riot Act' is so generally uninteresting, although still pretty good. I love 'Save You', Eddie sounds fine and sounds impassioned. Elsewhere, I worry his vocals are rather losing some of their power. Well, he's getting on, isn't he? It's human, we all age! You can't stay beautiful forever. Well, something like that. I enjoy both 'Love Boat Captain' (?) and 'Cropduster', both more than quality songs. I enjoy this entire album, and can find little actual fault with it, other than the fact Mr Vedder doesn't sound quite so impressive as he used to. Maybe he's been drinking or smoking too much? I don't know. Maybe Pearl Jam are just human? 'Riot Act' is a very well produced record, and as I hinted at earlier, sounds good, certainly better than 'Binaural' and possibly better than 'Yield'. I enjoy 'Green Disease' in particular by the way - it has a good energy. Pearl Jam have been making records for over ten years now, and have sounded ( very nearly ) pretty much the same throughout. Bands never used to do that, did they? Even The Rolling Stones ( eventually ) did a few different things. But, don't get me wrong. 'Riot Act' is good, and you wouldn't regret buying it. You might even consider it a return to form of sorts. It is and it isn't. I worry about Eddie Vedder.

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    Readers Comments

    Jez Rogers jeremy.rogers1@orange.net
    around the time riot act appeared, "lost dogs" arrived as a present - a 2 CD collection of oddities, rarities, fan club singles which may go some way to hinting at the breadth of material this band are capable of, another way being to catch them live. You don't get the casual brilliance of Cobain or Neil Young, though there is much common ground, and PJ are not a one man band, though Vedder is an outstanding front and writer. PJ produce songs that are built. BUILT. They run like engines. Not a million miles removed is Dave Grohl, melody, rhythmn, timing, lyrics that demand to be listened to, make you smile or shed a tear or two. Love Boat Captain's chorus tag says it all - its already been sung but it can't be said enough, all you need is love. These guys love what they do and it shows.

    Derek lockhart tlockhart01@qub.ac.uk
    Cant help but feel that we are listening to a man that over the years has genuinely shredded his vocal chords. I am concerned that we be losing one of the most original voices ever heard in rock and I reckon it is down to his lack of technique. In fairness, Eddies charms as a vocalist was due to the fact that he was an untrained singer but was somehow blessed with what sounded like a trained voice. Still looking forward to the next album although I have yet to enjoy an album in its entirity since Ten. I hope they do their diehard fans a favour on this one and leave the filler out. As Pearl Jam have always been a band with a social conscience they should appreciate that we are not paying out good money so as to have our time so utterly wasted by the appalling trite that has found its way (God knows how) onto previous releases.

    mookie blaylock rmill@msn.com
    what the hell is this guy talking about? First off, these reviews are ridiculous run-ons, and I think you're obsessed with yourself and not reviewing the music. People like you can't appreciate new music because you think too much in the past. It seems like Pearl Jam, in yor perspective, should have stopped making albums after their first couple because they won't be quite as dynamic. This is the last review I'll read by you. And what the hell is Derek talking about. I know he doesn't review music for a living. Niether of you should.

    Chula Boozer chulaboozer@yahoo.com
    How can you say all of Pearl Jam's albums sound the same?? The complete opposite is true. Every album they release sound different than the one that preceded it. You said yourself Vs. sounded different than Ten, Vitalogy was a completely different sound, as was No Code. Although Yield was an initial attempt to get back to the hard sound of old without completely selling out and making Ten Part II. "Do the Evolution" sounds nothing like anything they ever made. And Binaural and Riot Act sound nothing like the previous albums (can you imagine Nothing As IT Seems, Parting Ways, or Cropduster on Ten?). Yes, there are songs with boastful riffs on each album, but the overall feel and sound of each album is completely different than the others. That's one of the many reasons Pearl Jam has been able to live on and maintain a huge following for 15 years running.

    Pearl Jam 8 ( 2006 )
    Life Wasted / World Wide Suicide / Comatose / Severed Hand / Marker In The Sand / Parachutes / Unemployable / Big Wave / Gone / Wasted Reprise / Army Reserve / Come Back / Inside Job

    Pearl Jam released hundreds of live albums, continued to tour yet waited to release a new studio album. Taking some time off has done the band a world of good and renergised the entire musical and vocal elements. Eddie sounds better than he has in years and the whole group sound suitably impassioned. I need to say at this stage however, that whatever you've read, this certainly isn't a return to either 'Ten' or 'Vitalogy' or anything else the band have released. It's self-titled, usually a sign of either a lack of ideas or a line being drawn underneath everything else a group has done. Here, it's a little of both. It's true the album doesn't introduce any new musical element and it's also true that Pearl Jam are playing it fairly safe. They stick to tried and tested Pearl Jam elements, although, years on the road has honed this group down to its bare essentials. It's a joy to hear a band so committed, although also a shame a couple tracks here let the side down. The closing two numbers equates to 12 minutes of slow to mid-tempo music striving for passion and grandeur, yet ending up in murky, unmelodic waters. Elsewhere, things are much, much better. Superbly constructed and melodic mid-tempo rockers created with a real craft, as well as a few slices of exciting, aggressive pieces that blast out of the speakers. 'Life Wasted' is one of the best things this group has done in years and years and one of the best rock songs i've heard in perhaps the last five. It does what it says on the tin. From the title, you'd expect important, anguished lyrics and vocals, and it has that. You'd expect alive, thrilling and aggressive music, it has that. It also has a good way with dynamics, one area Pearl Jam rarely did do quite as well as some of their original 'grunge' peers.

    Other highlights? Why? You're all thinking that you just want an overall guide to the album here and whether I like it, or not, aren't you? Well, the album is exactly what anybody would expect from a Pearl Jam album musically, indeed, it probably borrows elements from each of the bands first four albums or so, and wields them all together. Presented with a renewed freshness. Nothing else to say there, really. So, back to the tunes. 'Unemployable' is surperb, the two minute thrash of 'Comatose' thrillingly concise and aggressive in a way this band hasn't been since 'Vitalogy'. Yet, we've also got the likes of 'Army Reserve', important songs that chime, contain enough melody alongside beatifully passionate, melodic mid-tempo playing where each instrument can be heard doing something interesting, thankfully. It's not standard, out of the box Pearl Jam material, although stylistically, as I've already hinted, it sounds that way. The freshness the few years off Pearl Jam have taken is audible within the grooves. A band playing like it matters again, a band with something to say. A fantastically unfashionable band these days, especially if you live in England, yet all you lapsed Pearl Jam lovers? Give this baby a try, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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    Readers Comments

    Robbie Wschamp95@aol.com
    I think this is the best PJ album since the horribly underrated Yield album. In regards to the final two tracks: I absolutely love Come Back. Probably the best midtempo number they've done since No Code (Off He Goes). The closer, though, is a little weak. Mike McCready wrote the lyrics, and it shows. So cheesy. Overall, I'd give this one a nine. The first four songs are absolutely exhilarating, and the second half of the album manages to slow the tempo and still hold your attention. Certainly more filler-free than either of their last two albums. A great album from a (still) great band.

    Backspacer 8 ( 2009 )
    Gonna See My Friend / Got Some / The Fixer / Johnny Guitar / Just Breathe / Amongst the Waves / Unthought Known / Supersonic / Speed of Sound / Force of Nature / The End

    The first Pearl Jam album to be produced by Brendan O'Brien since 'Yield' back in 1998, 'Backspacer' strips Pearl Jam to the basics. Well, this album runs for thirty-four minutes, contains only two songs that exceed four minutes and features up-tempo numbers in abundance. The quicker numbers have titles like 'Got Some' or 'Supersonic' and you may worry Pearl Jam are just doing simple stuff at the expense of their more artistic side. We do get a brilliant mid-section to the album though with slower, more considered tunes - 'Just Breathe' and 'Amongst The Waves', two truly excellent Pearl Jam songs good enough to rank alongside anything else they've done. Some nineteen years into a recording career, that's not to be sniffed at. Well, Pitchfork gave the album 4.6 out of 10 and claimed that Pearl Jam hadn't been commercially relevant for over a decade. Pitchfork have it wrong in this particular case, both artistically and commercially. Commercially 'Backspacer' is doing just fine, having sold close to 500,000 copies in the USA alone at the time of writing - it debuted at number one on Billboard and you can't get any higher than that. The review aggregator site metacritic provides a wide selection of mostly positive reviews, so critically Pearl Jam aren't doing so badly here, either.

    Lead single 'The Fixer' sees Eddie Vedder in fine voice, stripping back the past decade to provide enthusiasm and genuine aggression. 'Gonna See My Friend' is quality aggressive rock unconcerned with the fall-out from the grunge wars, sounding more like Nirvana than Pearl Jam did back in the day. Well, either Nirvana or a particularly good Foo Fighters song, at any rate. 'Supersonic' works in the context of the album and in a context of being turned up load. 'The End' is Eddie and acoustic guitar and balances things out, indeed, it's quite beautiful really. If 'Supersonic' lacks decent song construction, the likes of 'The End', 'The Fixer' and 'Amongst The Waves' have it in abundance, that special Pearl Jam magic, if you will.

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    this page last updated 26/01/10

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