Pearl Jam: Backspacer

For Pearl Jam’s last album, the first single (for a band that still cares about Rock and Roll singles) was the cataclysmically-intense “World Wide Suicide” which jarred listeners.  This time around the band’s first release off of Backspacer is the pop-rock, easy-swinging “The Fixer” which will cause more hopping and sing-a-longs then soul searching and rages against the machine.


Is it the political winds of change?  Maturity?  Marital bliss?  A combination of all of these things?  Who knows, but it is clear that Eddie Vedder sounds happy for the first time in a long time on a Pearl Jam release; and it seeps into Gossards riffs, McCready’s leads and Cameron’s drumming.  Backspacer is a quick breeze of an album clocking in at just over a half hour, during which the 11 tracks manage to show the wide range of the group’s ability but never overstay their welcome.


They start off wearing their Ramones love on their sleeve with “Gonna See My Friend” and “Got Some” and dip back into the punk rock on the exuberant “Supersonic” which will surely burn live.  Never shy of arena rock, Pearl Jam become their anthemic selves on “Unknown Thought” and “Amongst the Waves,” which is an excellent surf tune in which Eddie even talks about his soul being saved.  Vedder has simply never come across as this consistently positive.  Sounding like a left over track from the Into the Wild soundtrack, the slower “Just Breathe” is a ballad where in the past Eddie may have skewed dark, yet here he sings; “Oh I’m a lucky man/to count on both hands/the ones I love/some folks just have one.”  The theme’s of redemption, love and salvation all come around multiple times in these songs. 


There are no missteps on Backspacer, yet there is nothing that seems to scream out “classic” either.  A solid effort from a solid rock and roll band who sound like they are having fun playing together, something this group hasn’t always been able to achieve, but for both better and worse.  Angst may suit them better, but who can begrudge Pearl Jam bliss and positivity at this stage in their career?    



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