This is a perfect record.
It’s been 7 years since their last album. I am happy to report this is a record for anyone who has never bought a Pearl Jam release. The fans should be satisfied with this one too.
A world at the breaking point. Environmental havoc, broken promises of better times, and sudden seismic shifts are presented here as if the band knew we’d be facing a global nightmare.
The 12 songs produced by Josh Evans, a Seattle based artist who has been involved with the production end of Pearl Jam for the past several years has brought forth the experimental edginess of the group.
‘Who Ever Said’ is a classic opener rife with Eddie Vedder’s snarls of indignation pointed at self important quote makers.
The tracks tread a fine line between grunge, metal, and post-punk vibes.
The lead track almost sounds like an Extreme song when Eddie sings ‘Whoever said it’s all been said..’ then it bursts high into ‘Gave up on satisfaction’ like a Stones tribute. Quite a feat of musical mastery.
‘Superblood Wolfman’ is like Elvis Costello meets Talking Heads. When Pearl Jam did a side project with Soundgarden called Temple of The Dog this is what it sounded like in those mid 1990’s. Great crunchy riffs fly around the roar of Eddie’s vocals.
Then a drum machine beat with spacey keys creates an unpredictable path on ‘Dance Of The Clairvoyants’.
Wrestling with a world that is coming apart. Lyrically the band has never been better:
“Expecting perfection leaves a lot to endure when the past is the present and the future’s no more when every tomorrow is the same as before…”
‘Quick Escape’ has a thrilling Zeppelin/Floyd like energy. A sonic journey around the globe name checks Queen and Mercury; Kashmir and Marrakesh.
Here is the first explicit shaming of our current President’s incompetence. As Eddie sings of hardships to find places Trump has not ‘fucked up yet’.
The song mixes the best grunge riffs with Judas Priest style licks. It also sounds a bit like 1990’s Kiss which is a good thing.
‘Alright’ is affirmation of quiet time. A culture that dictates you must always be on can suffocate creativity.
“It’s alright to turn it off / Ignore the rules of the state, it’s your own/ It’s alright to shut it down.”
This song would have also fit on the band’s powerful debut, Ten, one of the finest of all-time, now 13x platinum.
‘Seven O’Clock’ is a wake up call to overcome apathy in the face of struggle. A Springsteen like statement delivered with that Eddie Vedder touch. Probably my favorite lyric too.
“Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse forged the North and West/ Then there’s Sitting Bullshit as our sitting president/ Talking to his mirror, what’s he say, what’s it say back?”
‘Never Destination’ is a Pete Townshend style scorcher. This is the type of song The Who would like to still make.
‘Take the Long Way’ is a prowler about hardships endured in relationships. Emotional turmoil is this band’s meat. This is just classic material. Matt Cameron showing his metal influences proudly.
‘Buckle Up’ sounds prophetic. Providing a counterpoint to the previous track.
‘Comes Then Goes ‘ is a beautiful acoustic folk song. Simply about emotional suffering that strengthens methods of coping.
‘Retrograde’ is about hitting bottom as the way to bounce back. Conflict and resolve.
The record concludes with ‘River Cross’. Featuring poetic lyrics that linger deep in your mind, this is a solid closer.
Pearl Jam’s finest hour.